It was 1941 and I’d just turned 14. I’d grown up in some very tough times. None of us expected things would improve much, but we wouldn’t be sorry to see the back of the Soviets. Like a spider spinning its web, the Nazis infiltrated and occupied every corner of our beloved Ukraine. The disorganised and bedraggled Soviet soldiers were easily driven back. Many times we cowered in the darkness of our homes in the chilly autumn evenings, listening to bombs exploding, some far away, others very close. Too close. It wasn’t long before the Nazis were amongst us.
As they drove through the village, some people greeted them with traditional offerings of bread and salt, and a large crowd assembled to cheer them. The procession of Panzer tanks, armoured vehicles, and Nazi soldiers on motorbikes was truly impressive. Everything about them, the vehicles, their uniforms, their weapons, all seemed superior. Would this mean the end of the purges and the terrors? Maybe people wouldn’t just disappear anymore. Soviet rule had left its scars on us. Surely things couldn’t be any worse under the Nazis?