Listen to Laryssa’s reading of her My Ukrainian Heritage diary ‘Fleeing Dekulakization in Early 1930s Russia’ by clicking the red play arrow on the SoundCloud recording below:
I will begin with highlights from my father’s past.
My father, Mikhail, was a true example of the word survivor. He survived through wars, fleeing from the enemy, and a life of extreme hardship.
He was born in Polatova, Russia in 1911, into a family that was well-off, owned a flour mill, and lived a good life. In 1929, that all changed when the Soviet government forced them from their home.
This was part of Stalin’s period of terror called dekulakization, the collectivization of farmland in Russia. Millions of wealthy land-owners were executed if they showed resistance to this government take-over.
In order to escape, Mikhail got phony papers that said he was middle-class, and so at the young age of 18 he began a life that would make an incredible Hollywood movie.
After leaving his home, he got work at a coal mine in a nearby town. A few months later he got word that his brother Ivan had been arrested and that the Komsomol (young Communist) army men were looking for my father as well. Mikhail quickly hid his old documents and with the help of a friend arranged for new ones. Ironically, he was on his way to get these papers when three Komsomol men, who were previously friends of his, spotted him and he was arrested.
They kept him in a barn, and the next day he was forced to walk through the town while they guarded him on horseback. As my father tells it, he had three places picked out to possibly escape. At the first two there were too many people, but at the third spot he darted off into a dense forest and got away. He ran, hid behind trees, and stayed in the thick brush all that night.
The next day he made his way to a trail and walked for some time. At one point, he saw some men on horses in the distance so he hid under a bridge. As the horses’ hoofbeats pounded over the bridge my father could hear the men speaking his name, but fortunately they did not see him.
The last part of this story fascinated me as a child, and it is the one I remember most vividly to this day.
Read Other ‘My Ukrainian Heritage’ Diary Entries
If you missed Part 1 of the series, you can read on here: ‘I Grew Up Hearing My Parent’s Stories of Fleeing Ukraine in the Second World War‘.
Tune in monthly for future diary entries:
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