Memory and Identity
February 3, 2015 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Some are kept in shoe boxes in a forgotten closet corner. Others are glued carefully into albums and kept on the family bookshelf. Many have been lost forever, destroyed out of panic or indifference. In Ukraine, whose tumultuous 20th-century history has spilled over into a bloody battle for its 21st-century identity, every picture tells a story. RFE/RL's Daisy Sindelar traveled to six Ukrainian cities to talk to people about what their old family photographs say to them about who they, and their country, are today.

Dnipropetrovsk: My great-grandfather was a Volga Tatar. He was friends with Lenin and he worked with the Bolsheviks. He even served as the first imam at the St. Petersburg mosque. But after Lenin died he was basically driven out of the country. He died in Cairo.

Kyiv: One of my Greek great-grandfathers was taken away in a black car and never came back. Just a few years ago, I found a document that said he had been executed. In the space where they give the reason for the execution, someone had written: "Greek." That's it.

Odesa: I'm all alone here. But I'm a sixth-generation Odesa native. I don't want to leave. Someone needs to stay behind to visit the graves of their ancestors.

Dnipropetrovsk: They were peasants, and they had two horses. This made them relatively prosperous for the time.These horses caught the eye of the Makhnovshchina, the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine. They kind of promoted themselves as Ukrainian Robin Hoods. Stealing from the rich, giving to the poor, that kind of thing. Very fair-minded. So when it came to my great-grandfather's horses, they didn't steal both -- only one.

Kharkiv: Technically, I'm Russian. My parents were Russian and I've spent a lot of time there. But I've lived in Kharkiv since I was small and this is my city. Ukraine is my country. It's never been otherwise.
posted by Kabanos (1 comment total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I love this. How private memory and public memory converge is something I have been fascinated by since I talked to my parents about their memories (or lack thereof) of the Korean War.
Thanks for posting!
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:58 PM on February 3, 2015

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