Today, we will explore Holocaust survivor stories from Ukraine in this blog.
This film was created by Sergey Bukosky and several Ukrainian students record Ukrainian Holocaust survivors’ testimonies. These survivors escaped execution. Others rescued friends and neighbors. These students recorded the survivors’ stories for the documentaries. These testimonials were recorded from 1994-1998. It was started after the filmmaker’s encounter with a book on the Baba Yar massacre.
The survivors begin their stories from the beginnings of the Soviet occupation. There were no idlers in Ukraine. Everyone had a job. However, the Soviets offended the Jewish population. They called them the word for Russian Jews and not the correct Ukrainian term. One family celebrated Stalin’s accession. They put a picture of Stalin in their stationery store.
These were people who lived where the individual did not exist, the country came first. They were members of a big family. There were no different characteristics between the people. However, in reality, there was the fifth line on peoples’ files, and this indicated ethnicity.
The survivors told stories of their childhood. Some played typical pranks on the families. One family had their uncle took for forced labor and they lost the family story. One little girl was punished for using a bad word when she saw a Jewish little boy. Even today, the Ukrainians do not understand what made the Jews different. A student working on transcribing the interviews said she did not want to be Jewish.
In 1942, the war came to Ukraine. One survivor recalls being unable to tell the difference between artillery fire and a storm. Motorcycles sped down the streets. These motorcycles carried Germans and they had guns. Papers were flying from the motorcycles and were carried on the wind. Everyone was rushing when war was declared. One child was up in a tree picking cherries. Something exploded above them and threw them from the trees. He was with his friend and his friend was killed as a result of the explosion. That child grew up that day.
When the war came to Ukraine, they immediately began executing Jews. One child remembered seeing the trucks where Jews were being carried. A child was crying in the truck. They stopped the truck and took the baby out and killed the baby. The Germans went marching from door to door looking for Jews. One survivor recalls three ditches being dug and nobody knew how they were dug or who dug them. It all went fast.
One mother managed to get her family to the back of the line. The Germans were hitting people in the back of the head and then the machine gun fire went off. They were using tracer bullets to kill people. One survivor tried to get as low to the ground as she could. She was determined to crawl away. She had her sister by the hand and they managed to escape from the fire. This survivor recalls a woman singing a Yiddish song and she thought this woman lost her mind. Then she remembers a man in black shouting “God, where are you?” This survivor crawled to the edge of the cliff and a German was coming in her direction. She must have blended in because of her light hair and played dead. He never found her and it was then she was able to get away.
As a student, the focus was always on Poland, Germany, and Anne Frank. I have never heard about how Ukrainian Jews suffered. This is a different documentary. I would stay strange because it blended both the Holocaust and the Soviet times. It was survivors telling their stories. It would serve as a good backup if you cannot find any additional documentaries on the Holocaust. This documentary is told in Ukrainian with English subtitles.
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