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Freedom in Britain for a Ukrainian Exile

by BBC Learning Centre Gloucester

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Archive List > World > USSR

Contributed by 
BBC Learning Centre Gloucester
People in story: 
Wolodymyk Warwyn
Location of story: 
Sambir, Ukraine
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 May 2005

Wolodymyk 's story is part of a collection recorded for a reminiscence project to celebrate the history of the Ukrainian community in Gloucester, and contributed to the BBC People's War with permission.

I was born in 1924 on a farm in a village called Sambir in the Ukraine and educated in the local village school. We were taught all about the history of Poland, but nothing about the Ukraine.

When I was about 12 years old I asked my teacher to tell me about our own history, for example the Cossacks and the army but my questions weren’t answered.

When I was 17 years old I left the Ukraine to join the army. I stayed with the army until the end of the war. After the war was finished we could not return to the Ukraine because of the Soviet regime, so our leaders went into talks with the British and American armies who agreed to take us.

We ended up in Rimini in Italy where we stayed for two years. In 1947 we left Italy and came to England.

I did not have any choice in the matter as I was classified as a prisoner of war until 1948.

When I arrived in Britain I felt free and knew I would not be repatriated to Soviet Union territory. I had to sign a four-year contract agreeing to work in agriculture, but when the four years were up I was allowed to move to a job of my choice. So started my life with a freedom of choice. I started off in Scotland and then moved to Essex.

All I can say is a big 'thank you' to the British Government who gave us all a new life in England. We are now able to help our families back in the Ukraine.

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