I remember how that Stalin died. I came to work and they announced. One woman was sitting crying, and another one, and a third one. I asked what happened, why they were crying. They were surprised: How come, you don’t know what happened? I replied that I didn’t, that I just got up. Stalin is dead, give a rouble for the wine. I thought to myself that I could give a rouble every day to make them all dead. I told them I would give them right away. And I though: “Praise be to God!”. One of them asked whether I didn’t feel sorry, and I replied that I felt sorry as much as I felt sorry for her. I was ready to jump to the ceiling.Wiktoria Kisiel
[Drohobych, the 1940s]
I worked at an oil refinery. First, at the pass desk, and, then, at the laboratory, because the road to that laboratory was already cleared of mines — earlier, it was impossible to go. At the beginning, there wasn’t much work. We were managed by a foreman, a Ukrainian, and he started it quickly. There was some machinery, thermometers, one scale was left … We worked 12 hours. I started work at 8.00 a.m. and worked until 8.00 p.m. I slept at home, and back to work again. They paid us what they wanted to. In 1948, I worked a whole month for half a bucket of potatoes. Bread cost 100 roubles and a thin slice five roubles. You had to queue for bread the entire night. I told myself I had to survive on that money. I divided five potatoes for the entire day: two in the morning, two for lunch, and dinner. There were no ration coupons yet. It was very hard, there was no sugar at all. Fish oil saved me. It was at the chemists’ and was cheap. I ate it like a cake before the war. Once I sold a coat and bought cabbage. I pickled cabbage and ate it with that fish oil and potato. You always had to be at work on time, because if you weren’t, you had to go for three months to Brygidki, to prison, to clean WCs. It was easier to survive on the payment, it was not so horrible, when you got sick. There was a woman working with us and I asked her why she didn’t come to work. She replied that she had overslept, but she drank some petrol to get a fever and not to come to work. I told her that petroleum was better for it, not so harmful as petrol, but she said she had only petrol at home so she stopped her nose and drank it somehow. Why, would it be better to clean WCs in Brygidki?, she asked. A woman doctor came, pronounced fever, examined her and gave a sick leave. Only when Stalin died, everything started to improve.Wiktoria Kisiel
[Organization of kolkhozes — Dzierkowszczyzna, 1940s]
The kolkhoz was organized in 1948 or 1949, I do remember, because I already had a job. My parents also joined the kolkhoz. Well, they took the horse away from them. They took plenty of things — the pigs and the horse, there were sheep too, so they took the sheep away, too, when they were organizing those kolkhozes. They took everything. Even hens, well, we had a farm, my parents tried hard and had a farm.Helena Kisielowa
[Stalin’s funeral — Wołkowszczyzna, 1953]
When Stalin died — oh, dear, what a story! I already had a job then. They took us all, all the staff from the post office and selsovet, and led us to the chairman who had a speech at Stalin’s funeral. They took us to the village of Wołkowszczyzna and they must have been seeing things, them Communists, that I smiled … They said you ought to cry, they told us to cry, but I didn’t. When they saw me smiling … They wanted to arrest me, but the same people who were visited by the chairman, these people, they shielded me, defended me. They shielded me. They must have seen things that I smiled, when we went for the funeral. But they protected me.Helena Kisielowa
Помню, как в 1953 году, когда заболел Сталин, в школе обязательно проходили линейки. Были коротенькие, по 5-10 минут. На низ мы слушали сообщения о состоянии здоровья Сталина. Когда он умер, для нас это была настоящая трагедия. Нас воспитывали с его именем на устах. Казалось, никто его не сможет заменить, что солнце погаснет, перестанет светить. Конечно, это был детский взгляд на мир, но потребовались годы, чтобы узнать что-нибудь о нем, о его личности и о том, что он сделал. Я помню тот шок, когда прочитала первый раз о Соловках, о Гулаге, о сосланных на Камчатку. В тот момент все рухнуло. Ну что ж, трудно расставаться со сказками, в которые мы верили с малых лет.Ludmiła Kostyniewa
To work on a lorry is a tough job and a nervous one. You are going 80 kilometres from village to village. All of a sudden, somebody rushes out, some kid … I used to drive ZiLs, first pouring out stone. But for the longest time I carried tar, with such a special lorry, there was 200 atmospheres of temperature. You are going and the smoke follows you. Sometimes into the eyes, I had spots on my skin. But I smeared some cream, and it was going away somehow. I kept driving, because they were giving a lot of money. Neither the head nor the director got that much money as I did. I drove that way for 12 years. If they gave me a pension for that work, but… They told me that I was working only seasonally, carrying tar in summer, and in winter what? I raked up snow, it was a tough job, too. I had a helper, he was scattering and I was carrying. I took the lorry at night and went. I came and he was waiting for me where I was supposed to pour [the tar]. They poured the tar, weighted it and I went to pour it. Sometimes at night I had to wait with that tar in the lorry. I arrived and it was raining, and you couldn’t pour it because it was wet, and the tar wouldn’t cling. But even when I was standing a day or two the tar was still hot. And the helper was waiting and heating up the tar to 200 atmospheres.Włodzimierz Maniowski
It was such a rainy weather once, it was raining two weeks and the head told me: Take the tar in Okólnica, there is a good road there, 12 kilometres of asphalt. Go and pour it on your way! Get some speed and pour! I did, the head tells me and I obey. I am going back, and just some Poles came to me, they had a holiday caravan, they slept in it. I can see it is all black with tar. They have already called Ternopil, the voivodhip, militia, shouts. Who did it?! Who told you to?! I say the head, and he points to the engineer, he wanted to shift the blame on him … It went over somehow. It’s good nobody crashed, nobody got killed.Włodzimierz Maniowski
When the front was moving in 1944 we were sitting at home. My mum was dead, we were all alone at home. Dad had to report, they told which year and took away. Dad had a small stomach complaint, but they always treated them because they wanted to take them to the front, they gave some medicines. But dad didn’t want to go very much, so he threw the medicines away … I was too small to go to the war, but boys at my age were taken to the Donets Basin to work. But I didn’t want to go. There came such folks, there were already some boys, Polish mates, and there were such strypki, that they gave guns to guard the village. I went there. At first, they saw we were helping, we even looked for members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN).
I got a gun, I had to watch the kolkhoz. They took a Russki to the kolkhoz to be the senior, but he was shot dead by the OUN. They took my dad. He couldn’t write, couldn’t read, but he had to be the head and that’s it. I was in those strypki. I didn’t have a uniform, in civilian clothes. But I met Ukrainians, OUN members. We were scared, because it’s forest here, they could come in the evening through the window and shot us dead.
Once I was going to the kolkhoz at night, and you had to go through the wood. I walked with a gun. And some guy was standing in the woods. Who is standing there? Come here! You will see! I thought: If I go he will shoot me, even nobody will look for me. I went further. But they didn’t do anything, and they could come, burn and kill us. But somehow they didn’t get at us, they didn’t get at Chortkiv. A large garrison came here, many Russki troops, and we were afraid. I was a guard for a few years, I guarded the kolkhoz, sometimes we went to the forest to look for the OUN members. We lived at home, and in the evening to work with arms. On Sundays, we usually gathered in fours, fives and went as far as Maydan. There were large wild boars there. We hunted. We split into four and each of us got a quarter. We had something to eat at home. Nobody said anything, sometimes we shot four or five, we did what we wanted to. After all we had guns.Włodzimierz Maniowski
The Ukrainians enrolled to the kolkhoz. They were given such jobs that each of them could be head. When before the war you were going to Perechody, there were crosses in every field. Everyone had one’s field and put a cross in it. They told them to destroy everything, take the crosses and dump them. We enrolled to the kolkhoz, we had to do [what we were told]. There were Communists at the kolkhoz, party members, but later on God punished every one of them, every one … None of them went to sleep with a natural death.
My dad went to work at the kolkhoz, he was a foreman. He ran a farm, there were many cows, pigs, horses. First, there were no tractors … It was not a large kolkhoz, but they worked, there was meat. When Russia fell apart, the kolkhozes fell to pieces. The cattle, everything, all stolen by our folks, the Ukrainians themselves. The houses built by the Moskals were pulled down to the last brick. There is nothing there now.Włodzimierz Maniowski
They took away all the equipment to the kolkhoz, horses and the cart, everything. The chuff-cutter, and thresher, and even the barn, and only the cottage was left. And they took away everything from the cottage, and people were left with nothing.
We were going to the kolkhoz. We were six girls, older and younger ones. Twenty-five – thirty years old. We were walking in the field and singing church songs, religious songs, May Mass ones, so that the field was trembling! So that the kolkhoz earth was trembling when we sang religious and Polish songs and we were not afraid. When we were taken to the kolkhoz we were not scared of anything any more, we were not afraid. We used to go to the church in Mosar, it was seven kilometres away. I remember we would come there from the kolkhoz in the evening. At night, the priest said a mass at ten, so that people from the kolkhoz could come to church. And I remember we kept going there, and we were coming back home at night. On holidays we, the parishioners, were going to church at night. But on weekdays you were not allowed to celebrate a holy mass and the church was closed. Sometimes, if somebody asked, the priest said the holy mass very quietly, because it was not allowed. They could deprive the priest of the right. So, quietly, only on Sundays, the holy mass. At that time on Corpus Christi I was making altars at the church only on Sundays, because we were not allowed on weekdays. In the morning the priest celebrated, too, but during the day we were not allowed to gather in the church. I didn’t work at the kolkhoz a long time, maybe a year or two. I ran away from the kolkhoz to the factory. And from the factory I ran away to the sisters to another district, nobody knew, absolutely nobody. They don’t know now, either, that I was with the sisters, nobody knows, only the priest knew.Teresa Szymko
Then comes 1946, the time when America, England, I do not know who else, started to help us. So ships were putting in to Odessa. They collected products and clothes all over Europe, whoever could, and brought them for these regions, for those countries, which suffered so much exactly because of that war. And they simply distributed all this somewhere in the ports, where it should go further: to Podolia, to Ukraine, maybe to Belarus and somewhere else. And it came also to Kamianets, to the Office and the Board. The Board, all those people, they were taking all these things away, and gave us, the poor ones, what they did not need: some old overcoats, dresses, some court shoes, I do not remember what, some products. And we were happy, happy that we got it, too. Because before the war we could not buy anything, the more so during the war, and there was nothing after the war – without a penny, barefoot and hungry.Halina Wiśniewska