This scholarly research will attempt to uncover some of the details of the impact of the Red Army and NKVD on the civilian population of Ukraine upon the liberation from the Nazis. The overall goal of the project is to tell the story of survival of the population of Ukraine that lived through the chaos of war caused not only by the Germans, but also by the Soviets.
While the World War II historians frequently discuss the topic of survival and explain how people endured the war, the motivation behind people’s extraordinary efforts to preserve their own lives is rarely fully explained. A detailed research of the human psyche behind the approaches to survival of the civilian population of Ukraine in 1943 – 1944 is essential to the modern understanding of survival in the total war. The main goal of the investigation is to analyze people’s ethnic and cultural background, and establish a connection between who they are and how they survived the war; whether they collaborated with the German occupiers, including service in German police units and SS brigades, joined either the Soviet partisan detachments or the Red Army, served in armed Ukrainian nationalist groups, hid underground or elsewhere in the countryside, escaped, or otherwise were forcibly relocated to the East or to the West. The secondary goal of the investigation is to explore the morality of people’s methods of survival and connect the results with the consequences of the decisions made. Because of the extreme complexity of the total war conditions in Ukraine, any broad claims or assumptions should be considered unreliable, as the clear picture of survival of individuals populating the country must be constructed case by case.
In order to conduct a proper research, a number of materials will be examined, such as archival documents, scholarly research, personal diaries and private letters among others. A series of interviews with veterans and participants of the war will be conducted in order to better understand their view of the events and their ideas concerning the techniques of survival.
While the time presses forward, less and less veterans and survivors of the Second World War remain. Today’s generation of young scholars of history is perhaps the last one to personally know those who lived through the crucible of the fiercest and most atrocious conflict in the human history to date. It is the duty of this generation of researchers to fill any voids left within the research with the help of the witnesses of World War II, in order to preserve history of the war and survival for generations to come.
Although much of the historical information has been collected on the subject, including archival materials, diaries of those who witnessed the nightmares of the war, letters, and interviews with veterans, there still remains a gap in some aspects of the gathered materials. Many documentary and narrative films, as well as academic works, largely discuss the strategic military features of the war and focus on description of combat and politics. There are some works that discuss the survival of the civilian population of Ukraine during the war, however such academic research focuses primarily on the life of Ukrainians under the Nazi occupation.
This project describes the techniques of survival of those who lived on the territory of Ukraine during the German occupation, however will be focused primarily on the survival of the people under the returning Red Army and NKVD forces. The turbulent time of the power struggle between the two forces, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, is particularly interesting due to the complexity of the issue. The Germans were responsible for some particularly gruesome atrocities during their retreat from the territory of Ukraine; nevertheless, the population’s problems did not end upon the Soviet liberation. After roughly three years under the Nazi occupation, every citizen of the liberated territories was a suspect in collaboration with the enemy by the returned Soviet forces. Because the anti-German propaganda of the wartime was heavily charged with hate towards the Nazis and those who associated with them, the Red Army and NKVD took extremely harsh measures against the civilian population of Ukraine. What the Soviets did and how the people survived it, needs to be explained in a greater detail.