Many pages in the history of Ukraine cannot be easily turned over and forgotten about. Those memories live in books, in hearts of our relatives, in the streets of cities, towns and even small villages. Taking just a small glance into all of the events, battles, attacks and plans of that period provides a new, better understanding of our country and culture. The life of common village people illustrates the life during WWII best.
A lot of books are written about the battles, plans and strategies during the Second World War but in fact, only a few give a good insight into what life was like for common villagers. Surviving village life during WWII was difficult but became even more so afterwards because of joblessness, lack of food and shelter and a devastated educational infrastructure.II. The War and Changes in the Life of Common PeopleIt was on August 23, 1939 that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin signed the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of friendship. This pact guaranteed Hitler that an invasion of Poland would not result in a war with the USSR.
However, it did not all happen like the USSR government planned and on September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland and started World War II. From the first day of the war, Ukrainians suffered because the German bombs killed many Ukrainian civilians in Poland and there were Ukrainians serving in the Polish armed forces. Those events became the breaking point in the lives of many people, and had an enormous impact on the living conditions common people were put into.Before the War and more so afterwards, the Soviet life was inferior to that of the others countries in terms of such simple comforts as: clothes, food, gadgets and appliances, living quarters and other material valuables.
(Medish, 329). Astonishing but true, after the war started people especially villagers accustomed to plowing their fields happened to be unemployed and in constant fear that their families could die of hunger. Maria Vasylovich, a war survivor when interviewed said: “I can remember those long queues for bread that we had and I was happy standing there for hours, just to get that small loaf that served as food for the whole family.” Moreover, lack of food was not the only “stumbling block” for leading a normal life. A lot of common people’s houses during the war were ruined so some families apart from hunting for food were looking for shelter.III. A Teenage Boy who Survived the Difficulties after WWIIFinally, after seven years of struggle, the war ended.
The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the German onslaught and broke the back of the German power. (Overy, 1). As a 77-year old Semen Vasylovich recollects, people couldn’t imagine there would be anything worse than war. However, it didn’t take long to realize that aftermath was even crueler than the war itself. Semen’s father, who served in Soviet Army during the war, became unemployed after the war finished just like many other military people. Those men returned home, not only physically tired and wounded but also “psychologically broken” for it was obvious there were no working places and many were left out on the streets with their families, for their houses were either burnt or ruined.At the end of the war, Ukraine lay in ruins: the population had declined by 25 percent – that is by approximately 10.
5 million people; 6.8 million had been killed or died of hunger or disease, and the remainder had been evacuated or deported to Soviet Asia as political prisoners or had ended up as slave laborers or migrés in Hitler’s Germany…” (Gregorovich, 3). Ten million were homeless, as more than 700 cities and towns and 28,000 villages were destroyed. Only 20 percent of the industrial enterprises and 15 percent of agricultural equipment and machinery remained intact, and the transportation network was severely damaged.
Semen, a simple village boy, was jokingly called “bosyak” as many teenage boys were called at the time, for they didn’t have any warm clothes to wear often just running on streets with bare feet. Semen was one of the many who had to encounter the instant food hunt, and the chaos amidst the numerous ruins. It is especially surprising when the interviewee recollects what they did to get at least a little food to survive: “I remember going on the roof of the train, full of people, into another town for couple of days just to get a sack of wheat so that my Mum could bake some bread for the family. We couldn’t afford to buy tickets, so I was riding on the roof, and I was not the only one there. ”IV. Poor Village Education in a Post-War CountryThe Soviet educational system began to take shape during the early 1930s, when the regime decided on a back-to-basics approach education. (Medish, 222) Clearly that in the 1930s-40s years the Soviet education was at the stage of development, and after the war it was “recovering”. It took a good couple of years to restore an educational system and to improve the education infrastructure.
Meanwhile, in post-war period, education still remained a priority of the privileged. Especially in certain villages, there might have been some elementary schools, but in most cases if there were any schools in the region they would be in the urban areas. It was obvious, that under these conditions, the villagers were put into after the war, having to search for food and work really hard, an ordinary village family could not afford to have their children studying at school. Thus, having low chances of schooling, villagers could only dream of getting higher education.V.
ConclusionThus, the time period of WWII and the Aftermath became one of the hardest time periods for people in Ukrainian history and villagers particularly. Those were the times when food hunt, search for shelter and clothing were the first priorities and one of the major problems were joblessness and lack of education. The horrific memories of this time period live not only in books, but also in the memories of the people who survived the war up till nowadays. The cultural heritage of Ukraine can be enriched not only with the help of books and Internet but also by accessing the primary sources-the survivors. History-is our future, for those who don’t know their past will never be successful in future. Therefore, history should be treated as a treasure, for it is the only thing that will remain living through ages.
Word Count: 1090 wordsWorks CitedGregorovich, Andrew. World War II in Ukraine. 28 Sep. 2004.Medish, Vadim. The Soviet Union.
New Jearsey, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall Inc., 1990Overy, Richard. Why the Allies Won. New York: W.W.
Norton & Company, Inc., 1996Vasylovich, Maria. (personal interview). 25 Nov. 2006Vasylovich, Semen (personal interview).
25 Nov. 2006