Marco Levytskyy, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
Edmonton author Steven Kashuba recently released yet another of his highly popular books related to historical events of the 20th century in Ukraine.
Entitled To War Survive: A Story of Betrayal, Ethnic Cleansings, Deportations and Repatriations it follows the experiences of two orphans, who escape from their torched home in a small village during the 1947 Operation Vistula under which Communist Poland removed Ukrainians from their ancestral homes and resettled them on territory taken from Germany after World War II.
“The village — its history, language, and culture — has left an indelible impression with me,” says the author.
“So much of the sentiment I have for this region of Poland spin around, for a lack of a better word, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Thousands were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands to live in another country. Each seems to harbour a sense of sadness buried somewhere inside. Melancholy? A feeling of pensive sadness? Perhaps. Even Ukraine’s national anthem seems to reflect this sadness,” he adds.
Dr. Roman Petryshyn, former Director and Founder of the Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre at Grant MacEwan University offered the following commentary on this book.
“Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991 many Canadians have shown an interest and passion for re-establishing family ties and sorting out their understanding of events in Eastern Europe in the context of World War 2. Steven Kashuba formulates his literary family saga on the backdrop of the most complex and emotional issues still being debated today by historians and government research agencies. Kashuba’s mixture of family love stories, separation and survival in the midst of the tragic events of war, ethnic cleansing and deportation of his family to Ukraine, Poland and Russia, introduces the reader to world events and people forgotten. His story provokes shock and emotion, moving readers to want to learn more and construct a better future.”
Kashuba has previously written two other books — Destination Gulag and Once Lived a Village. All three are available for sale (See the advertisement next to this story.)
Destination Gulag is the story of the Kozlov family who were branded as kulaks (rich farmers) when Josef Stalin came into power and immediately moved to state control of production and distribution.
The Kozlovs’ farm was seized through a policy of collectivization and their crops treated as state property. Stalin interrogated, arrested, and deported dissenters in cattle cars to isolated concentration and labour camps in Siberia. They were treated like cattle, shuttled from camp to camp, fed if useful, starved if not. Unless productive, their lives were worthless to their masters.
“Even though the Gulag took millions of lives, the indifference towards this phenomenon is startling. The absence of hard information backed up by archival research made it difficult to unlock the horrors of the Gulag. Archives were closed and access to camp sites was forbidden. No television or cameras ever filmed the Soviet camps or its victims,” says Kashuba.
“It is my fervent hope that Destination Gulag will capture the tragedy, and perhaps the triumph, of the deportation of the Kozlov family to Siberia,” he adds.
Once Lived a Village is about the author’s search for his dad’s village, burned to the ground by zealous Polish nationalists in 1945, just at the end of World War II. His search for the village began in 1967 at a time when he was serving as a high school teacher with the Department of National Defense in Germany. But, things did not go so well. He was arrested by the KGB for being in a village in Soviet Ukraine; a village that was strictly out of bounds to tourists. And, what was his punishment? He was banished from travel to any Iron Curtain Country for a period of 25 years.
But, by some strange coincidence, his period of banishment came to an end at about the same moment that Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, thereby allowing him to once again resume his search for his ancestral village. Yes, he eventually found the location of his father’s village. The important question is who, specifically, helped him find the village? Strange as it may sound, the very person who consented to guide him to the location of the once-existing village was none other than the same person who had identified for the Polish nationalists, in 1944, the ethnic Ukrainian homes to be torched.
The story is not just about one person’s search for his village. It is about important world events the likes of which are unlikely to visit upon us again. First, there is the matter of out-migration of a large percentage of the population from Europe. Second, there is the catastrophe of two world wars which took the lives of millions and third, is the question of communism and its quest for world domination. The story takes the reader through these world events while at the same time a family struggles for economic survival in a cold and often hostile land. The story is not without considerable intrigue along with the emotions and scars that survivors continue to harbour as a result of the horrors of war, ethnic conflict, and re-location.