Case History SW54

Eugenia Dallas (nee Sakevych), b. ca. 1925 near Odessa and grew up in Pervomais'k (district center, Mykolaiv region). Narrator's parents were arrested, and narrator lived in an exceptionally good orphanage, probably one for selecting future cadres, during the famine in Kiev: "There were so many, many children there! There were hundreds and hundreds of us... Their parents were arrested or died from hunger." Narrator recalls long lines for commercial bread. "My childhood was my sister, brothers dying, and my family disappearing."

Question: Please state your name.
Answer: Eugenia Dallas.
Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born near Odessa - I don't even know exactly where I was born. Because my parents, when everything was taken away from them -the land and the house - we lived in the country, we were country people. And they were very hard working people, and this way they accumulated something. And so they moved to Pervomais'k, a little town, (if I say it right). I don't know how old I was. A very little girl.
Q:When were you born?
A: I was born in 1925. And that isn't for sure; my brothers think I was born in '25. One brother says '26, another brother says '25. The month, I don't know. And then we moved with my parents. Actually, my father was arrested.
Q:What kind of work did he do?
A: He worked on a farm. My grandfather got married very late, and he was a slave, "крепостной," as they say in Russian. And so they moved to Pervomais'k, and after that my mother was arrested there. My mother was sent to Siberia too. And here is this document, saying that because I had a married sister, she took me to her. And so I stayed with her, and then she died from all this. Another brother studied in the Kiev Academy, an art school; he was an artist, "художник," an artist. And he was sent to Siberia to an area between two lakes to help build a canal. He came back. He tried to find our parents. After my sister died, I was put in an orphanage. Then another brother came from the Urals. He took me, and I stayed with him. And there was such hunger! Unbelievable! There was nothing.
Q:Where were you exactly?
A: At that time I was already in Kiev. From Pervomais'k my sister moved to Kiev. And that's where I stayed all these years. And then another brother came from the Urals with his wife and child. They took me. I think I stayed about two years with them. But there was such hunger! You know, they have their own family to feed and so I was really in everybody's way.
Q:Was this an orphanage or what they call a foster home?
A: No, no, it wasn't a foster home, there is no such thing as foster home there. "Беспризорный дом." It was a home for children who have no one. And so after that brother, I stayed with an artist who came from Siberia. He took me in, but I didn't stay very long with him, because he was a political prisoner, so he couldn't stay in one city more than six months. So I went again to the orphanage.
Q:What year was this approximately?
A: That was 1936, because he returned.
Q:Okay. Going back three years to 1933 when the famine occurred, what do you remember about that? Were there a lot of people in the orphanage? Were there a lot of peasant children there?
A: There wer a lot of children there! There were so many, many children! There were hundreds and hundreds of us.
Q:And who were they mostly?
A: Most of them, children like others. Their parents were arrested or died from hunger.
Q:What did they give you to eat there?
A: I will never forget what they gave us. The first meal was like oatmeal, the second like "манная" or something. Everyday it was the same thing, some "перловая крупа" or something like that. There was no meat. There was nothing. At one point my lungs were not very strong, and one head of this orphanage took me in. It was near Pervomais'k, near Dnipropetrovske - he took me to a hospital, to the doctor. Coming back, he stopped at his mother's. It was in a little village, probably farmers too, there was only one house there then. And this woman fed me, and he was so kind to me, you know. And it was just like a day sunshine for me. He was soon removed, because he really cared for these children. And they didn't like him. They were just destroying people there.
Q:Did a lot of children in the orphanage die?
A: Personally, I didn't see this, but many kids were not well.
Q:Did you go to school?
A: As I said, I went to school right away. There was an orphanage in the school. I was very malnutritioned, and my lungs were anemic all the time. And that's when this head took me to the hospital. He really was a loving and caring man.
Q:Do you know if he was a Party man?
A: I don't know.
Q:Was he Ukrainian or Russian?
A: He was Ukrainian. And I think they removed him after a couple of months, because he cared too much for these kids. He was removed, because he cared too much for us small children - he understood us. After that we never had good food all the time. I shall never forget one particular woman - she was a laundress. Naturally, it's a very hard job to wash for 300 kids as it was at that orphanage. All of a sudden, she decided to become a political activist, so she become a Communist. All of sudden, she started to introduce her way of thinking. And naturally, people got scared. And right away she started to promote herself, for her own benefit of course. So everyone became frightened, and they got her. She was in charge after awhile, but we began to worry, that we would starve. No food given to us was decent.
Q:When you went to school, what did they teach you? Do you remember?
A: Well, in this particular orphanage, they taught us physics, algebra; eve languages, naturally, you had to learn Russian; we were also taught how to shoot. We had rifles. I think I was about 13, 14 at the time. I just couldn't shoot, everyone else was just stronger than me. I just disappeared every time, and I got punished for this - I got a minus for this and a minus for that. I just couldn't think in class. I ran away all the time from that class.
Q:Did they, when you were very young, when you went to school during the famine, for example, what did they tell you about Stalin at the time? What did they tell you about the government? Did they teach that at all? Did they have, for example, songs? Were there slogans that you had to learn, or songs that you had to learn?
A: Well, the ,slogans. We naturally had to learn everything about Stalin and how wonderful he is and his daughter and everything. He was a model for the nation. But that's not what we have. I was very run down physically. And there were certain things, even later when I was in Germany, my memory started to fade. I was always undernourished; I faced terrible malnutrition. But I grew up hungry, and since my youth I always felt that I was in everybody's way. Nobody wanted me. That's how I feel about my life.
Q:Did they abuse you a lot in the orphanage.
A: I was not abused because I had certain talents. I was writing little poems, and some were printed later. I even met the poet Tychyna in Dnipropetrovs'ke. He was there on a visit. And I was even given attention from the teachers in the orphanage home. But that didn't last too long. Because these emotions were always with me, they were reflected in my poems.
Q:And you stayed in the orphanage until you were how old?
A: Fourteen. Then I went back to my brother. He had a hard time with work; he couldn't stay in one city too long. When I was in Kiev, there were lines for food.
Q:Did they let you out onto the streets, or did you have to stay inside the orphanage all the time?
A: We staved inside the orphanage. We stayed in.
Q:Were there other children out on the streets at the time?
A: We weren't supposed to go. We didn't go out. This second orphanage was in the village. The first orphanage was in Bila Tserkva. And there I was. But it's a city, but we don't wander around anywhere. We weren't allowed. When I was in Kiev, I don't remember the year exactly, there suddenly was bread, and lines began to form for it. Everyone could get one kilogram or so. There were many people standing in line. Lines! You have no idea - lines taking up blocks and blocks! And some of the people that I saw, I can never forget. One man, I remember, devoured a whole load of bread, and then he just fell down and died. This happened regularly, and there were so many people who were just so hungry - they just didn't known how to cope with what was going one. Perhaps I was lucky not to see everything, but I can't remember everything. I do remember that my brother and my sister both died.
Q:Did they live in the village?
A: No, they were in Kiev.
Q:They died from hunger?
A: She was ill, and he died from hunger, I suppose. She got so upset at her parents. You know that your emotions are tied in with your health. And she was just upset, and then there was no food. He was starved, always picking up the bread crumbs. And my little nephew, who was only two years old, went to bed crying all the time. And my younger brother cried from hunger. And then his mother went and worked a couple of days and brought all kinds of food, maybe leftovers, I don't know. That's my brother's wife. And it was like a feast day for us kids.
Q:Were your teachers and the other adults in orphanage also underfed?
A: I don't know. They always looked alright to me, out as I've said, I was young girl back then, I didn't really know what was going on. I could get all upset, perturbed, disturbed, or whatever. When I was in Kiev still going to school there, there was another mother whose daughter was in the second grade at that time. Her mother came to pick her up after schools, but I knew that I never went home for some reason - I didn't know why. I suppose, I always wandered to another girl's home. And the mother of this girlfriend, picked her up, gave her a kiss, and went home. To me that was the worst thing that could be. I always cried. And then she would take her home, feed her French fries. Can you imagine what it's like to be a little kid and have nothing to eat? However, I was still privileged to be at their home at least for a couple of hours to play a bit. Yet I survived. How, it seems a miracle to me.
Q:In the orphanage, did you have a feeling that the famine was over? Could you tell?
A: No, that was after the famine that I was in the orphanage, and we never received any meat. That was afterwards.
Q:But, you said that...
A: In the first orphanage they gave us this "манна," all kinds of oatmeal. But even when I ended up in the orphanage again in '36, we didn't get any meat.
Q:So it felt maybe like...
A: It was the same old story.
Q:Continuous hunger.
A: Yes, it was continuous hunger. All the soups were made with a little bit of potatoes or barley, something like that. Nevertheless, it was way below what we should have been getting as growing children. We were very undernourished.
Q:Did the children speak Russian or Ukrainian amongst themselves?
A: We were taught to speak Russian - many of the teachers were Russian. My younger brother, who is older than me, speaks half-Russian, half-Ukrainian. That's how many, many people speak there. But his daughter, who is 21 years old, speaks both languages properly - she doesn't confuse the two.
Q:Do you know if any other members of your family - relatives, cousins, aunts, uncles -were still on the farm at this time?
A: None of my relatives are still on the farm. My oldest brother died not too long ago; that's the one who that in the Urals. Now I remember that he did go back to Kam"iana Balka - that's the town that we come from - to visit some of our cousins. Some did die during the famine. We had very big families. At that time families had six, seven, eight children, and they multiply. Only two cousins remain.
Q:I don't have any more questions pertaining to the famine, but if you have something that you'd like to add, please go ahead.
A: Well, there is one thing I can say, and that's that my family, for no reason at all -was sent off to Siberia. They worked all their lives very hard, and then that happened. I remember the episode. I remember certain things like photographs. I was underfed. And then there are certain things I don't remember.
Q:Also, we tend to suppress memories that are too painful to remember, anyway.
A: Yes. But one thing I do remember is when everything was taken away from my parents. I'm not sure, but I think my father was still with us at this time, but I do remember that my mother was there, because I was clinging to her. I remember harvesting in the fields. When the grain was being harvested, there were always some ears of wheat that were left behind. So when she went to collect these ears, I, of course, was naturally with her. To collect these pieces that are of no use to anybody because the harvest was over. Because of this, she was arrested her. She had harmed no one.
Q:What year was that?
A: I don't know. It must have been '31, because everything had already been taken away from us. That was still where we had originally lived - in Kam"iana Balka. And then I think we moved to Pervomais'k, if I am right. And after my mother disappeared, my sister moved to Kiev and took me with her. At this time many families were wiped out. I know many people, even those here in America now, who had their families completely wiped out by the famine.
Q:What were the conditions like? Did you have enough room to sleep? Were the rooms clean?
A: Oh! We slept on straw mattresses and there were so many children that you hardly had enough room to go around your bed. There was so many children in one huge room. It was a dormitory - it was called a "сарай”. There were so many kids, and there was just so much overcrowding.
Q:Would you be able to explain to me these documents a little bit more? What exactly are they?
A: Well, as I have already said, I kept them, but I can't remember how they got saved. Since the time, when I got back to the United States in '51, I had them all the time in a bank deposit box. As I have already stated, this concerns one of my brothers, Hryhorii Vasylevych Sakevych, concerning, after his arrival home from prison, his attempts to find our parents, and this is what was written to him in Russian, as you see. You see, they were arrested in Odessa at that time.
Q:And that's the last that you knew of them?
A: Pervomais'k is near Odessa.
A: Yes. I shall never forget my mother when she was arrested. She was sitting and looked at me, and she knew that she would never see her children again.
Q:And this other one?
A: This is the same. It's just copy. I thought that maybe you would like to have them.
Q:No, but thank you. There are other documents like this about other people, but these are all you have about your family.
A: If you want the originals...
Q:No, this is fine.
A: I remember certain things just like a picture. Maybe because I was so undernfed, you know; but then certain things are just like a mental block. My childhood was my sister, brothers dying, and my parents disappearing. It was just a total shock for me.
Q:Thank you very, very much.

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