"They had been waiting for death, they but it did not come, had been hoping for freedom, but it was not...": reality in childrens essays about what they witnessed in the years of the Second World war

Analysis of works by pupils, written in May 1946 about their life during the Second World War and occupation. Attempt to reconstruct value orientations, stereotypes, emotional experiences of children associated with their own military experience.

28.12.2017
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Donetsk National University of Vasyl's Stus

They had been waiting for death, they but it did not come, had been hoping for freedom, but it was not...: reality in children's essays about what they witnessed in the years of the second world war

Maria Bystra, PhD (History), Docent, Doctoral Student at the Department History of Ukraine

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Annotation

occupation pupil war experience

They had been waiting for death, they but it did not come, had been hoping for freedom, but it was not...: reality in children's essays about what they witnessed in the years of the Second World war

Maria Bystra, PhD (History), Docent, Doctoral Student at the Department History of Ukraine of Vasyl's Stus Donetsk National University

In article, the author analyzed the essays on the topic: What I experienced during the Great Patriotic War / occupation, written by pupils of the 6th-8th forms in Konstantinovka and Snezhnoe Donetsk region in May 1946, on the occasion of anniversary of the victory over Germany in the World War II. The author tried to reconstruct social values, stereotypes, children's emotional experiences connected with their own military experience. Reconstruction is carried out on the basis of the Textual Analysis of narratives (30 essays). The work combines qualitative and quantitative content analyses for greater validity of the results.

Evaluation of the facts and events which are described in the essays are not the main subject of research because they are duplicated in the essays. The main focus was given to how children remembered and described their own military experience and personal private impressions.

During the survey, the author paid considerable attention to revealing cultural models of Soviet society, stereotypes and children's perception of military reality. Scientist discovered that the most common children's emotions during the War were fear, yearn for the family, confusion, grief, despair, anger, hope, belief in the victory, the triumph.

Except of individual characteristics the survey also showed gender differences of the pupils' works, which is evidenced by the size and content and content of essays.

The clear majority of essays disclose image of happy Soviet childhood, which was interrupted by the war and a return to a happy childhood after the Liberation. Soviet social stereotypes, connected with the cult of personality of the Soviet leader, education and religion, are also reflected in the most of the essays. So, pupils intimately associated a happy childhood with the ability to study, which was typical to Soviet traditions. Even a hint of religiosity was absent in analyzed works.

The essay helps to understand individual and collective opinions of young people about the other and the personal and help to reconstruct understanding of the military reality and to identify the most influential social fathers for children. The organization of the essays allows to understand social values and priorities for the young generation. Criticism of the reality in the essays shows pragmatic children's thinking, despite the fact that totalitarian system tried to strain the system of values of its own citizens.

The author made up conclusions, that even a cursory evaluation of school essays gives insight of cultural values, which were typical for the country in wartime. Moreover, such a survey allows to recreate spiritual world of children of war, feelings of youth, their perception of military events, sympathy and ideals, and provides an opportunity to talk about some regional features. Besides being considerably independent, rational and humanistic, Children's thoughts about the war were influenced by Soviet propaganda. Author's appealing to social stereotypes demonstrates success of Soviet propaganda and children's acknowledgement of the system of moral values in the Soviet society during the war.

Key words: Nazi occupation, essay, pupils, fascists, Second World War.

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Introduction. Recently, the Ukrainian researchers' interest in historical sources of the special origin arises due to the change of methodological approaches to historical science countries of the former USSR [7, 10]. They was remained out of sight scientists in honestly, albeit the fact that they were extremely interesting and important. These documents bear the distinctive stamp of individuality of the author, his personal understanding and vision of the world, to the attitude of the events and that's why allows to discover aspects such as historical events that were out of sight of traditional historical science. In particular, they contain social and psychological information that is missing in other types of historical sources [6, 413]. This is the reason why school essays on the topic: What I experienced during the Great Patriotic War / occupation, are an important source of special origin of the history of wartime, which reports about childhood and daily life during the war in general.

Data analysis: In spite of the urgency and importance of this type of historical sources and its presence in the funds of the central and regional archives of Ukraine, scientific community has not yet paid due attention to children's writings, publications in this area [2; 3]. Using analysis of children's memoirs about the war like one of the base of reconstruction of the collective memory of the war is more typical for Russian historiography [8; 9]. This type of historical source was firstly introduced for scientific use in Ukrainian historical science.

To create a more complete vision of the situation the author combines structural (qualitative) content analysis, which is associated with understanding of the meaning of the text, fixing nontrivial statements accents, with quantitative content analysis which is based on the calculation of frequency of using certain notions, symbols and subjects, the abovementioned approach allowed to reveal some patterns of perception of reality by representatives of young generation of Donbass.

The author analyzes the essays of 30 pupils of the 6th-8th grades in Kostiantynivka and Snizhnoe, Donetsk region, which were written by 20 girls and 10 boys [4; 5]. Essays were written only in Russian, in contrary to the other archives of Ukraine, which have similar funds of pupils' essays in Ukrainian. This could be probably explained by the region peculiarities. The essays were selected by a method of simple random selection, due to characteristic features of the documentary fund archives. The use of cluster or stratified sample, which would have grown up the level of validity of the obtained results, was not possible. Overview of the facts and events which are described in the essays is not the main subject of research because they are duplicated in the essays. The main focus was given to how children have remembered and described their own military experience that private impressions.

Purpose. The article is based on an evaluation of historical sources - childhood memories during the war, written by children on the first anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War, we will try to reconstruct ideals and stereotypes, children's feelings, that are associated with extreme experience of life in war.

Presenting main material. Degree of autonomy of writing essays is an important aspect for providing the reliability of the conclusions. And we have no information about the participation of teachers and other adults in the process of writing essays. Because of that, we assume that children wrote their works on their own. Implicitly, it is difficult to imagine that pupils were not instructed on the main accents and content of the work by teacher. That shows that the most number of works were written within a similar plan and contain several semantic blocks: 1) the beginning of the war and changes in their lives; 2) entry into the city of enemy troops, the beginning of the occupation; 3) crimes of occupiers and their own feelings; 4) liberation of the city and the return to civilian life. Some works of Pupil of the 7th grade began the same way, which also proves existence of common installations from the teacher: The fascists treacherously attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 [5, 165 rev.]. Despite that, each author of the essay used his own associations and memories while describing events, it was caused by their own experience and peculiarities of perception of the reality.

Research except of individual characteristics also showed gender differences of Pupil's works, which is noticeable of the size and content of essays. So, on average, girls' works were bigger and more emotional than boys', boys' essays were smaller and include more concrete facts. For example, Behter, schoolgirl of the 8th grade of women's secondary school in Konstantinovka, Donetsk region, built her essay on the contrast of the state of hometown during occupation and after it: The city had an unattractive appearance: high single black pipe could be seen over blown up factories, s the specter of death [5, 55]. She had written to describing the time when the city was liberated from the invaders: Now I began to live in a special way, everything was new and beautiful in my city for me [5, 55 rev.]. J. Ryzhkova, pupil of the 6th grade, used the contrast of light and darkness while describing her own impressions: The fascists closed the light of the sun for us [5, 79]. And the day of liberation is described as follows: The long-awaited day came in 1943...The sun shone again for us [5, 79]. Kurlapova, the pupil of the 8th grade, linked the beginning of the war with a homey feel, that was destroyed forever: And the minutes of this peaceful domestic silence already run out [5, 52 rev.].

Velichko L., pupil of the 6th grade, began his essay as follows: News regarding the beginning of the war was transmitted by radio, June 22 at six o'clock in the morning in 1941 [5, 57 rev.]. He described the liberation of Konstantinovka as follows: The Red Army entered our city on September, 6. Everyone greeted the fighters joyfully... [5, 58]. Victor Across built his essay around the activity of the Red Army, whose soldiers boys genuinely admired: Our fathers, brothers and sisters voluntarily entered the Red Army ... Glory to the Red Army! Eternal glory to the heroes who died in the struggle for freedom and independence of our Motherland! [5, 60, 60 rev.]. In general, specific features for boys' essays are focused on soldiers of the Red Army, that fact indicates with the desire to follow them. And the less emotional in boys' writings, in our opinion, are connected with the desire to seem older and manly. This is not the lack of feelings and emotions. The survey allows to assert that the clear majority of essays disclose image of happy Soviet childhood, which was interrupted by the war and a return to a happy childhood after the Liberation. Pupils intimately associated happy childhood with the ability to study. Education had primary and symbolic meaning in Soviet society; it was a measure of success of Soviet construction and instrument for preparation a building blocks of the system. This attitude to education is reflected in the analyzed works, which generally reflects the social stereotypes. Almost every work is mentioned that the arrival of the invaders lead to impossibility to go to school (In this year I could not study at school, because the German government did not pay attention to Soviet children at all ...) [5, 139]. the children started to study again when the city was liberated from the invaders (Now I am happy because I had been waiting until the day when the doors of the school opened for me and I began to study in the 7th grade) [4, 8].

We can get information from essays which allows us to understand individual and collective opinions of young people about the others and personal and help to reconstruct understanding of the military reality and to identify the most influential social fathers for children. The organization of the essays allows to understand social values and priorities for the young generation. The others were presented in the essays as Germans, fascists, enemies. The interesting fact was that teenagers called the occupiers Germans (148 references) more often than the fascists (31 references). And only the one author among others called the enemy the German fascist invader [5, 171]. This fact shows that young people did not see much difference between these notions, which means that they supposed all Germans were Nazis. Despite the fact that it was in contradiction with the official position of the government, it took place. Negative image of German culture and language settled down in children's minds for many years. Numerous cases of refusals of pupils to learn German in schools in Donbass after the war were recorded, though it was studied more often than other foreign language before the war.

Other notions, which were used to refer to the enemy by pupils, should be also noticed, although they are not widely spread in essays. They were very emotional. There were German insolent people, Fritzes, German fiends, The barbarians, German corrupt skins, Vile, vile invaders, German predator dogs, The German devils. So, O. Shipulina, pupil of 7th grade, used vivid images to show the difference between Soviet pilots and their enemies: ... watched the flight of our falcons, saw how they fought against the German devils [4, 7]. Such emotionality in the description of image of the enemy gave some psychological detente to young authors and helped to believe in rectitude of the fight against the invaders as an embodiment of universal evil, because they returned to the memories of the horrors of war while they were writing works.

Pupils often used the umbrella term to describe personal in the essays, such as: Our, Own, Native , Reds, and specific notions, such as: Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Stalin, Molotov etc. The vast majority of pupils paid much attention to their own fate and the fate of relatives and mentioned their relatives as participants of the events in the writings. However, the traditional social fathers for the Soviet people as Lenin (1 references), Stalin (6 references), Molotov (6 references) had never been mentioned. They were mentioned only in several teenagers' works. Only 4 out of 30 essays contained gratitude for liberation which addressed to Stalin, during the peak of the cult of his personality: All hail our leader and father, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, leader of the invincible Red Army and the Navy [4, 8 rev]; Glory to the Great Teacher Comrade J.V Stalin for our happy childhood! [5, 79]. Herewith, these citations were not sincere words from the heart, inasmuch as they did not contain any individual features. There were only stamps, which, perhaps, might have appeared in the essays under the influence of the teacher or the media. In disregard of Soviet propaganda, which focused on the exclusive role of the party in the victory over the enemy, party members, although, were mentioned only four times, and the Komsomol - twice.

Images Native Red Army men with stars on caps and Red Army (84 references) were the most authoritative social fathers during the war in the children's essays. Children associated them with liberation of hometown from the Nazis and returning to happy childhood (Glory of the Heroic Red Army, who exempted us from the German yoke and brought back happiness and study!) [5, 79]. Notions Native and soldier of Red Army are closely intertwined with each other in the writings (How much joy. Our brothers, fathers-soldiers began to come to the city; Russian soldiers entered the city in the morning. Residents joyfully greeted our husbands, brothers and sisters) [5, 126, 181 rev., 182]. These citations demonstrated, that particular soldier (sometimes father or brother), which protect them from invaders, had great authority for teenagers than glorified leader in films and songs. The Soldier of the Red Army and warrior became a social ideal in Soviet society for many years. Many boys wanted to be like their heroes-fathers. So, Boris Marchenko wrote: I am trying to finish the 7th grade and to go to the military school, in order to become useful to my Motherland. [5, 181]. The image of the hero - the Soviet soldier in the public consciousness influenced even fashion, which had a clearly militarized character after the war [1, 224].

Pupils did not perceive guerrillas as authoritative force, their contribution to the liberation of the region was hardly observed by children in the essays (only 7 references). On the one hand, this was due to regional features of Donbass, where large partisan units did not have places to hide, on the other hand, the Soviet myth of popular fight behind enemy lines may not yet settled down in the children's minds at the time of writing essays.

The most common Children's emotions during the war were fear (My heart seemed to suggest that something awaited the evil, the evil and the terrible) [5, 54 rev.], yearn for the family (... my father received a summons ... He went to war. I spent days thinking about my father) [5, 57], confusion (People walked and pondered, no one laughed all day) [5, 57], grief (Stretched tiring, full of misfortune and grief days after the Germans occupied the city) [5, 56], despair (Had Been Waiting for Death, but It Did Not Come, Had Been Hoping For Freedom, but It was not be ... The days dragged on like a year) [4, 10, 10 rev.], anger (When we had served about the attack of enemies, all members of our family walked around the yard, clenching their fists) [5, 59.], hope and belief in the victory (Nothing wrong, the war will end soon, the German will not be here...) [5, 52 rev.], the triumph (This day brought me a lot of happiness, it will be memorable for me...) [4, 8 rev.].

Children focused on their own fate and the fate of their relatives in many essays and concentrated on their impressions and feelings rather than on what they saw. Information about something heard by someone or general information can be found rarely in the text of the works. Such correlation of stories in the pupils' writings explains by age group of authors (depending on relatives, juvenile maximalism, romanticism) to some extent and clearly shows the hierarchy of personal values of teenagers, who were quite normal, in spite of deformation of values in a totalitarian society.

Authors of essays subconsciously competed to prove that they are victims of occupiers, describing numerous facts of their suffering. We can assume that it may be due to the Soviet propaganda and dominant public opinion. Perhaps, the thought of the blame for staying in the occupied territory and the idea of the necessity to justify in general view of the society for it, had already buried deep inside young citizens' subconscious.

Even a hint of religiosity was absent in analyzed works, in spite of growth of religiosity among the population during the war. This could indicate that Soviet anti-religious campaign among the younger generation had been successful and demonstrated children's knowledges about the system of moral values in the Soviet society [4, 5].

We should not forget that the pupils had described everything, which were experienced by them, after the war. So, some stories in the essays could have been inspired by propaganda. Stamps of Soviet times were reflected in the writings. However, this fact does not make description of children's feelings less valuable. That allows to understand the emotional state of the generation of children of war better. Additionally, sometimes there were unexpected statements in the pupils' memoirs such as: There was no power in the city, everyone pulled bread, corn and everything that fell under their hands. The Germans entered on the second day [5, 147]; Our troops were weakly armed. They were not ready for war, they were retreating all the time... [5, 97]. We have a doubt of the fact, that presence of such words in the writings is caused by the influence of the teacher or official propaganda. Rather it was a reflection of their own observations and feelings that were not consonant with the official interpretation of events.

Conclusion

To sum up all the a forehead, we can draw conclusions, that even a cursory of school essays gives insight of cultural values, which are typical for the country in wartime. Moreover, such a survey allows to recreate spiritual world of children of war, feelings of youth, their perception of military events, sympathy and ideals, and provides an opportunity to talk about some regional features. Besides being considerably independent, rational and humanistic, Children's thoughts about the war were influenced by Soviet propaganda. Author's appealing to social stereotypes demonstrates e success of Soviet propaganda and children's acknowledgement of the system of moral values in the Soviet society during the war.

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2. . . , ...: ³ / . . // . ' , 30 - 1 2015 , . / . . Գ. - .: ˳, 2016. - . 416-425.

3. . . / . . // 䳿. - : . . . , 2016. - 2: : . - . 133-137.

4. Public archive of Donetsk region, fund 1857, description 1, case 13, 127 sheets.

5. Public archive of Donetsk region, fund 2258, description 1, case 2, 356 sheets.

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