“If this note was found, I would be hanged”

The life provides unexpected things. The theme, which I’d been describing for several years, perusing materials in the books and magazines in the libraries (it’s still strange that not all sources are available on the Internet), covered with dust in the cupboard at home. May I found a few texts, but the primal source, the exclusive.

It’s about the occupation of Kyiv by the German military troops in 1941-1943. September 19 marks 77 years from the time when the soldiers of Wehrmacht trespassed the streets of Ukraine’s capital. Those events are in the memory of witnesses. As for me, I’m holding the diary, the notebook with a handwriting on the hard covering “December 5 – the day when the Constitution of the USSR was adopted”.

The note about the city occupation made with a pencil in Ukrainian starts from the carton endpaper. The author is Anastasia Hryhorivna Kavratka, the cousin grandmother of my wife, whose name in the family was grandma Nadia. Was born in Rzhyschiv, Kyiv region. Being young, moved to the capital and worked in the shoe factory. In 1941 Anastasia was 34 years. Her note appeared on the third day of occupation. The woman doesn’t hide her negative attitude towards the Germans. The pathos is palpable, but it’s the telltale sign of the Soviet propaganda of those times. So, the grammar and punctuation are preserved:

“In Kyiv, the Germans 21/IX 41 y fed the dogs with meat but made the people work hungry. Yell that in 2 or 3 days they will be in Moscow! Liars! I read all the history of Russia and came to the thought that Russia is invincible. They’ve gone too far, but the time when they flee even faster will come soon. The Germans walk along the streets shaking their red heads, feel like heroes and are strongly convinced in their victory. People also believe in their victory. It might be only me who don’t believe in their victory. And will never do. If they found this note, they would hang me”.

That’s all about the beginning of the occupation in Kyiv. On the next page, the note in Russian dates March 25, 1944. Anastasia tells how she left the city in 1943 and nearly in three months she came back in winter 1944 when the Germans left. The woman went to Kagarlyk, on her way the German robbed her, taking away her stuff from the bundle. She stressed the atrocity of the occupants and in the last sentence recollects Babi Yar: “In the Babi Yar lots of peaceful citizens were shot as well as kids”.

Then, on the white pages of the notebook, evidence of the occupation days is given. The ink writing in Ukrainian on December 28, 1942, starts: “In Darnytsa a blind man appeared who sings: In Kharkiv it’s raining, in Kyiv it’s slippery, Flee, Germans, away from Ukraine because the Soviets are near”. The retelling of the song has the ending: “Go away the Germans from Ukraine!!!”

«Якби цей запис знайшли, то мене повісили б»

In the writing on October 2, 1943 (the Germans leave Kyiv in a month) it goes about the Vlasov army: “I was obliged to talk to them, they have one irresistible desire to go over to the Red Army. They suffered from everything: from Germans who call them Ivans, from people who treat them like dogs, from hunger and from disdain looks. I advised them to flee away to the forest, they’re afraid of starving there if the Red Army won’t come soon”.

Anastasia lived in the Kyiv suburb Kurenivtsi, where the teenager, the author of the novel “Babi Yar” lived. The Vlasov Army, that retreated together with Germans was also mentioned in his work. People were afraid of these Russian drunkards and daredevils, who behaved cheekily because they had nothing to lose.

Kuznetsov wrote about prostitutes who escorted German officers in retreat. Anastasia Kavratka also spotted it: “Month ago the German army walked along Vyshgorodska. It’s better to say the gang of hooligans and bandits. Where did he find them? I don’t know. It seems that our earth can’t stand such a misery. These assholes made a lot of mess and moved further to the west. Several prostitutes went with them”.

Returning to the first note of grandma Nadia about the beginning of Kyiv occupation, her characteristics of the German soldiers coincide with the descriptions of the famous Kyivan witnesses, in particular, Anatoliy Kuznetsov, Dokia Gumennaya, Arkadiy Lyubchenko, Dmytro Malakov. Invaders were confident, daring and arrogant. They looked down at the local people, sometimes condescendingly. The further they go, the tighter the screws were.

“In the real life, everything turned out to be harder, than it was depicted by the pre-war press”, it goes in Dmytro Mlakov’s book “Those two years… in Kyiv with Germans”. “It turns out that every soldier, this ‘fooled by fascism German worker or farmer’ not only fails to show strained in the Telman greeting of German proletarians “Rot Front” muscled fist secretly from the officers-fascists but also isn’t going to look compassionately at the “Soviet people”. Instead, how much arrogant superiority in the look at us, the inhabitants. It impressed”.

In the novel of Dokiya Humenna “Cruciform Yar” about first days of occupation it goes: “German kitchens and colons are standing on every street, here you can see the distribution of soldier food (butter, sausages) that makes the Kyivans jealous, here you can see absolute and open redistribution of property”. “There are a lot of things in these Germans which are surprising and hard to understand. They turn a blind eye to those whom they conquered and spot them only under threat of the death penalty. But what a strength, ours are far away from it! And how they’re organized! Later, the worse: “On the way to Zhytomyr at the bus stops “nur für Deutsche”, and do what you want. And at the railway stations! They made fences as for cattle. Everything is seen, appalling, not allowed to enter…”; “We’re neglected! Bolsheviks didn’t need us, the same is now. But back then we could enter the academic library, but now we’re not allowed anywhere. We said it couldn’t be worse when “kum” knocked at the gates of Kyiv and now we see that it can be unbearably worse”; “Police and Gestapo are appointed on the roads, bridges, entrances to Kyiv. These took away everything that Kyivan people in need carried on their shoulders. Butter and honey took away, grain and flour spilt over the field. Occupants fight with the people, shoot the one who carries two hundred grams of butter”.

Despite the negative description of the occupants, the mentioned authors, first of all, Lubchenko and Humenna, didn’t sympathize the Soviet authorities although they expected a humane attitude from the Germans. Both Lubchenko and Humenna didn’t want the Soviet salvation and that’s why they preferred immigration, where they finished their earth route.

Anastasia Hryhorivna Kavratka died in Kyiv in times of Independent Ukraine at the age of 92. Relatives assure that grandma Nadia was a good person, neighbours and children loved her (she didn’t have her own). She, together with her husband Kostyantyn Korchesko planted fruit garden next to the five-story building in Borshchagivka, where they moved from Kurenivka. Separate trees (we can see them from the windows) still yield with fruit.

Despite the Soviet style of the diary recollections, Anastasia wasn’t on speaking terms with former authorities. Remembers how she was appointed with one commissioner to agitate the villages during Holodomor. Successful work among the habitats of the village must have guaranteed the young factory worker joining the party. However, the real state of those villages impressed the agitators so much that Anastasia Kavratka refused to join the rows of communists and the commissioner shot himself dead.

Victor Tsvilikhovskyi

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