Can you imagine having to leave your family and your country for their survival and yours? That the decision Mikhail had to make. He had to leave Ukraine for survival, and lost his family.
Previous ‘My Ukrainian Heritage’ Diary Entries
Catch up on previous diary entries from ’My Ukrainian Heritage’:
- Part 1: I Grew Up Hearing My Parent’s Stories of Fleeing Ukraine in the Second World War
- Part 2: Fleeing Dekulakization in Early 1930s Russia
- Part 3: Hiding in Plain Sight from the Dekulakization in Valuyki
- Part 4: Conscripted! Siberian Worker’s Army to World War II Soldier
Part 5 of My Ukrainian Heritage: Loss of Family. Leaving Ukraine for Survival
During the following days and months, my father covered many miles and hid where he could. He walked over mountains, hid in vegetable cellars, and rode horseback through forests. He did what he could to survive, and at some points narrowly missed getting killed. He traveled through places like Kharkiv, Ayhovatka, Poltava, Kremenchuk, and then over the Dnieper River. At some point he made the decision to leave Ukraine, so he made his way through Romania and Austria and eventually ended up in Germany.
Mikhail settled in Hamburg, and in 1946 he met Lena. When the commissioner for England came a year later they signed up to go, and in 1948 they were married there. My sister was born a couple of years later, and then after they immigrated to Canada in 1954, I was born.
Sadly, as a matter of survival, my father could not return to his wife and sons in Ukraine, even though he desperately wanted to. The knowledge that he would not be able to see them again must have weighed heavily on him, but he carried on and started a new family.
My sister and I had no idea until we were young adults about my father’s previous family. He was hesitant to talk about his past life, and we gathered that he still feared what may happen if some Ukrainian or Russian government officials found him. We could not fully understand, however, how he could still be worried since he was living in a free country such as Canada.
Eventually in later years he felt safe enough to try to find out about his family in Ukraine. My sister and I began by writing letters to some of his sisters and brothers. These letters were often simply addressed to the name of the person and the town he vaguely remembered in which they had lived. Amazingly, one of these letters found its way to one of his relatives and we began communicating with them.
Read Other ‘My Ukrainian Heritage’ Diary Entries
Tune in monthly for the next diary entry.
- Part 6: Father and Sons Reunited After 50 Years
- Part 7: My Mom’s Childhood Ended with the Occupation of Ukraine
- Part 8: My Mom’s Choice: Slave Labour on a Kolkhozes and Leaving Ukraine all on her Own
- Part 9: Becoming a Proud Ukrainian as a Child of Immigrants to Canada
Help Get Aid to People in Ukraine
As I write, people in Ukraine are fighting and fleeing from Russian troops, and could use your aid and support.
With a large number of Canadians having immigrated from the Ukraine, there are a number of charities within Canada that are focused on getting aid to Ukraine. Two such organizations, the Canada-Ukraine Foundation and Ukrainian Canadian Congress established a partnership, creating the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal and a joint Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief Committee (UHRC) to efficiently and cost-effectively deliver crucial humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and Ukrainians displaced to the neighbouring countries by war.
Between December 2022 – March 2023, the work of the UHR Committee will be focused on their Winterization projects ensuring: food security, medicine and medical supplies, surgical missions, care for the elderly, women’s shelter support, emergency shelter support, SOS Children’s Villages Canada support, heat, light, firefighting gear, ambulances, wound treatment, and first aid kits.