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NLSC: Lives in Steel

Maslij, Petro, 1926-1994, (speaker, male; interviewee)


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  • Title:
    NLSC: Lives in Steel
  • Contributor: Maslij, Petro, (speaker, male; Dein, Alan, (speaker, male; Dein, Alan (sound recordist)
  • Place Name: Interviewee's home
  • Description:
    Tape 1, Side A b. 5th May 1926, Luchyntzi, Rohatyn country Ivano-Frankivsk, West Ukraine. Born under Polish occupation, Galicia annexed to Poland. Village school and then national school in Rohatyn. Taken by horse driven carts. 1938 - passed exams to Ukrainian national school. 1939 - Red Army 'liberated' West Ukraine - worse off than under Polish occupation. Expected Germany to wage war against Poland. Sept. 1939 - horsemen with red stars on caps - Red Army cavalry - while working on field with father. Went to village and saw soldiers on horse and cart and units. Miserable lot - 'smell'. 'Socialist' leader of village propagated unification of West Ukraine and Greater Ukraine. Put up blue and yellow national flag. Had to bring it down - put up red flag. Arrested - nobody knows where his body is - perhaps one of numerous unmarked graves left by NKVD. Killed Polish landowners - imposed 'law' on people, give beef, corn, eggs to the state. Deported rich people to Siberia. NKVD coming at night, rounding people up. So family slept in fields. Forced collectivization. Ukrainian livelihood gone. Illiterate people ruling village - those with 'brains' classed as enemies. 'Horrible'. Ukrainian Nationalists - underground, but too weak. Occasional shootings. Most escaped to Polish territories occupied by Germans. 'We expected Germans to liberate us from Stalin terrorism'. When Germans came - welcomed them with milk, butter, eggs and church bells. 'Joy didn't last for long'. Under Polish rule - sung Ukrainian songs in secret, and schools. Church was free - not so bad, but restricted. Ukrainian history books. Under Russians - shortage of clothes, poverty. St. Nicholas Church - Ukrainian Greek Catholic - compulsory, every Sunday and festival days. Parents active - mother in charge of committee and father sang in choir. All village in church. 'Mother would wash me by the well and dress me'. Wore embroidered shirt. Easter - 3 day festivity. Lent, then Good Friday - wore robes - boys formed 'guards' to protect robes. Visit cemeteries - gravestones repainted. Read bible. Baskets with 'Paska' and decorated eggs, butter and cheese - to be blessed. Went home to eat blessed food. Children playing games and singing Easter songs. Next day - boys chasing girls with water in buckets - 'Wet Monday'. Russians prohibited celebrations, restrictions on priests, stopped church weddings. People in desperation, down-hearted. Father, Nykola, mother, Anna. Farmers - up to 'liberation'. Became poorer and poorer. Father had to sign paper - give up farm to 'state'. Had inherited farm through generations. Putiatyntzi, next village, forced into collective farming. Great poverty - no equipment, horses etc. Father grew wheat, rye, barley. Horses only - late '30's. Summertime, came home from boarding school, enjoyed preparing horses - cut clover for cows, loved to plough. Stables. At 13 years old, delivered a calf, thrilled! Enjoyed singing songs at grammar school - retained memory of songs. Holy Mass songs. End Side A, Tape 1 Tape 1, Side B Priest paid school fees. Grammar school - 'elite'. Uniforms. During Polish occupation - anti-Communist. Teachers ex-officers Ukrainian Army. Under Russian occupation - Ukrainian history banned, also Latin, Greek. Curriculum changed. Paragraphs, chapters - anti-capitalist in language books! e.g. plebs uprising against Romans in Latin books! Jewish friends. Brainwashing pupils with films. Atheism. Teacher taught us Darwin theory. 'Something created from nothing'. Called teacher 'comrade'. Trials of Ukrainian patriots. Handcuffed, deportations. Went to railway station, avoiding KGB. Hid under goods wagons. Watched people pushed into wagons like animals. Red Army soldier saw us, caught us with rifle and bayonet. 'Hands up, 'Run away'. Departed two families from my village, family relations. Jews, businessmen in Rohatyn. Two families in village with Ukrainian co-operationa continued to work. Cloth stalls and goods at market place - sold breads, soups. Russians flattened market place. Physics teacher, Jewish. Middle-school. Jews 'careful'. Treated like everybody else by Russians. Synagogue services. During Russian occupation, family well stocked. Father watered down milk for Russians. Towns had material goods - traded with Jewish merchants. Soldiers lived in tents outside towns, not allowed to mix with people. They believed Soviet Union was paradise. We laughed at them, "nobody's in uniform" Russians fled to the east. Family hiding in fields, hid horses. One o'clock, bells ringing. Red Army soldiers took family horses and escaped. Father chased them, was a non-commissioned officer in Austrian army. Germans looked a different army - 'super race' compared to scruffy Russian soldiers. Spoke German - practised talking to soldiers. 'Western culture - people impressed'. Red Army soldiers left behind. End Side B, Tape 1 Tape 2, Side A Germans killed soldiers. Village like a paradise. Germans offered cigarettes. Raised Ukrainian flags. Germans made friends with people - 'only the bastards that came later imposed regulations'. About 5 months later - Red Army soldiers dying with hunger - prisoners of war - Ukrainian men kept behind barbed wire. Jewish ghetto. Exterminations. Jewish family from village taken to ghetto. Digging graves. Jews escaped, some resigned to fate. We appealed to Jews - 'escape, run away'! Father went to ghetto - brought flour and bread and brought back clothes and jackets. Endangered our lives - could be shot for trading. Jewish police, wore star, stood at gates of ghetto. Check working parties - 'clever after the event' but didn't like these collaborators. But we made some mistakes. Discusses Ukrainian attitudes to Germans. U.P.A. - Ukrainian Underground Army. Liberate transporter trains. Jewish ghetto (shows photographs of Petro and father wearing coats swapped with Jews for food). Sneaked into ghetto. Working in fields - two Jewish girls appeared - gave them food. Girls had been hiding in field. While at Grammar school, Germans closed down schools, wanted 'muscles rather than brains'. Sent with some pupils to grammar school in Stryy. "I did see hell". Stepped over Jewish bodies - executed by German drunkards. Others sent to camps. Had escaped from ghetto, running across park. Heaps of mothers and babies - stepped over bodies to go to grammar school for 8.00 a.m. Bodies all over the park. Our reaction 'the end is coming'. Some boys asked questions "Why don't Jews take up arms". "Was it hopelessness of situation or the Jewish religion?" The ghetto was levelled to the ground. Found out late that a priest in my village had hidden two Jews throughout war - didn't know anything about it at the time. Jewish pupils from my school had been 'contaminated'. Discussed situation with fellow pupils. Knew what was going on. Lodging in Stryy. Underground ? killed Germans. Ukrainians taken as hostages - posters on walls with names of people to be hung or shot as reprisals. 25 condemned to die for one died German. Later 50 for a German. Going to school in morning, saw 50 people hanging in market place. 17 years old at the time - now, 'today I understand more about events'. German plan to keep some grammar schools - trained to translators. Perfected German language and German history. 50 in class, 400 students. 10 grammar schools in whole of Galicia! 45 boys, 5 girls. Youngest in class. Joined choir, grateful to Ukrainian teachers - spoke secretly about what was going on. One day going home, caught train, changed at Chodoriw - gestapo man with dog. Asked him in German the time of next train. End Side A, Tape 2 Tape 2, Side B "Walloped me across my face" and walked away. Though 'German swine'. Journey to school - bridges destroyed, flood. 120 km from home to school. Starved during school days. Provided with barrels of sauerkraut - worms in soup, had to fish them out! Spring-time - eat buds from trees. Stomach aches. 180 boys in boarding house. Some boys brought out flour. Pastry - dry baked - horrible. Hair growing like moss on face. Dormitories. When at technical college in Scunthorpe - grabbed it - luxury - 6 subjects a day - homework in all subjects for next day. Greet teacher in morning - recite homework. Marked out of 5. Marks added up throughout year. Had to work 'bloody hard' - sat to 2.30am preparing homework. If not enough marks, repeat year. Helped other boys to do homework - paid a little. Discipline. Two boys on duty, cleaning and looking after school rooms. No need for corporal punishment - too scared to ? class, father couldn't afford it. Very good memory. Mother wanted me to be a priest, study theology. Wanted to be an academic, somebody important. Ukrainian Underground Army - Germans allowed one division to be formed to fight Bolshevism. Ukrainian politicians wanted trained army to eventually declare Ukrainian independence. If fought in West, would not fight U.S.A. and Britain. Designated to join officers school with two other boys. June 1944. Red Army massing in Luov - Germans wanted men to join German units. Working on potato crops with father - message - council wanted me. "If you volunteer to join Ukrainian division - when Germans come to village, we can say you volunteered". No way out - discusses father's reasoning. Volunteered, sister cried. Agitated other boys to join. Railway station. Other boys joined. Saved village. Met other Ukrainian units, trained to go to Eastern front. Other Ukrainian boys had been captured by Germans. Met friends - some went straight to front line. Germans selected grammar and university boys - uniformed us - trained us for the front line. Fortunately - Ukrainian partisans freed us. At this time German officer morale very low. Saved us. Picked up by Germans - put behind barbed wire with Ukrainian Division.

    Reorganised. Became radio operator until end of war. Ended up playing volleyball behind front lines in Austria! Very fortunate. End Side B, Tape 2 Tape 3, Side A German uniform doesn't change spirit. Uniform kept me warm, second hand. Shabby overcoat. Met girlfriend, Eastern Ukrainian. Many beautiful Ukrainian girls working in German Volkswagon factories, taken by force. K.D.F. stadt. Learning how to drive Volkswagons. (Reunited with girlfriend this year (1991) in Ukraine!). Driver and translator in K.D.F. stadt. East Ukrainians wore labels marked 'ost'. Could only stay within workcamps. Took her to cinema - spoke Ukrainian - Germans called us 'pigs'. Told them they were 'rotten bastards' - "We're here to defend you against Bolshevism". Our aim was not to fight for Hitler, but defend Ukraine. First based in Neuhamer and then to Slovakia, Bratislava - at K.D.F. stadt. lived in hostels in Germany. Wore uniform - given chocolate and cigarettes. Given talks in German - technical - rifles etc. Hopeless to brainwash us, 'we were Ukrainian patriots'. Issued rations of soap - make from Jewish bodies - knew about extermination of Jews. Saw goods wagons from Budapest - corpses. 'No logic in totalitarian state - bastards'. 'My orders in Stryy - danced and drunk till early hours and executed Jews - horrible'. Thought we were going to be executed after fleeting front line. Germans knew war was lost 'home to mother', survive. Many Ukrainian boys on front line were easily beaten by Red Army. Educated Ukrainians send behind iron curtain after war. Believe in God, would not kill or join party. Decisions made on logic, religious belief. Stationed at Holy Cross, Austria. End of War. Surrender to British forces. Kept weapons as protection against Yugoslavian partisans. Taken to camp in Rimini, Italy. Theatre, football matches, food in Ukrainian camp. Suicides by Cossacks in Austria - didn't want to return to U.S.S.R. Brought to camps in England, replace Italians and Germans in agriculture camps. Taken to Lincolnshire. Sent to Oakham. Arrived April 1947. Ukrainians in Britain arrived in three ways: Demobbed from Polish Army; European Voluntary Workers (E.V.W.) - textiles and agriculture; Ukrainians who came from Italy - Panchuk organised Ass. Ukrainians in Great Britain based in Notting Hill (11,000 in Rimini). Rebuilding our lives. Very few British knew about Ukrainians. Organising churches, Ukrainian organisations. 40,000 Ukrainians in all. 'No question' - Ukrainians followed German orders. But, seen names of friends on Wiesanthals list of war crimes - "not one of them was a criminal". Insult to dignity of friends. Witnessed execution of Ukrainian deserters by Ukrainian officer. Also witnessed 12 Ukrainian soldiers shooting at Yugoslavian partisan and deliberately miss. "Our job was to pay Stalin back for atrocities of Bolshevism." End Side A, Tape 3 Tape 3, Side B Rimini Camp. Ukraine on Italian soil. British provisions. Many Ukrainians escaped. Convalescent camp - free ? , known as 'International' - could speak many languages. Brought women for British soldiers. Played football with Italians. Everyone working would get extra food. Patriotic group - Russians interrogated Ukrainians - looking for criminals. Russians forcing themselves into camp - one day 10,000 men barricaded gates "No Russians in camp". British went in camp, we saluted. We told them, "we do not want to go back to Russia". Russians used pretty girls to bribe us to go back. Landed in Liverpool - dark, 2pm, thunderstorm - first impression of England, horrible! Camp in Sheffield. Treated badly, uncomfortable. Those born under Polish occupation did not have to comply with Yalta agreement; but those born in Eastern Ukraine - changed places and duties of both to be allowed to stay in West. Cites example of a Cossack who lived in Scunthorpe, changed his name. Frightened men, could not speak English - many mistakes made. Acceptedt in Italy, but treated as P.O.W.'s for 2 years after war! Barracks - alphabetical order - brought Ukrainian football team. Officers separated from men. Transit camp - nothing to do in free time. Wore German clothes and then English uniforms with diamond patches. Bought U.S. uniforms, made better suits. Told we were to be sent to do farming. Sgt. Major, one ear, rotten - shouting. We objected to being treated as an enemy of British. Officers treated us better - respected Ukrainian culture. Ukrainians associated with land army girls. Got good job preparing cards for farmers, organising labour. Paid half camp money, half English money. Canteen in camp, toothpaste, polish, cakes. Went to cinema, fish and chips. Could contact relatives and friends - sent food parcels. Use bicycle - policeman reported me for cycling through stop sign! Mixed with English people. Met girl, Elsie, at No. 80 camp, Sleaford. End Side B, Tape 3 Tape 4, Side A Propaganda against Ukrainians - newspapers wrote reports about Ukrainians raping British women. Used as an excuse for street lighting in local colleges! Believe that Russian agents involved in propaganda. Sex was restricted in those days! Kissed English girls in cafes. Played football against Air Force teams. Ukrainian concerts in villages - gave lectures to locals about Ukrainian culture. Ukrainian men shower and well dressed. Ambassadors to Ukraine. At first wore English uniforms dyed black. Men homesick, celebrating Christmas and Easter. Sing songs and wish ourselves 'speedy return'. On farms could meet English girls and get 'backhanders' from farmers. Mr. Dickinson's farm, nr. Bourne. Late Nov. - hard work. After two months appointed to Leicester as translator, then worked for Mr. Dixon's farm. "Enjoyed it so much that he thought I was going to take over the farm!" Sung in choir and played football. Won championship in 1951 in local league. Discusses Ukrainian language. Scunthorpe - E.V.W. Christmas party, came with choir to Baths Hall. Very successful. 1949-50. Next year - invited back and asked to work in Scunthorpe. Employed by Sir Rob. Macalpine and lived in caravans by power station. Every Friday night - went back to Sleaford play for Ukrainian Utd. football team. First Ukrainian team based with British league. When we were winning, opposing fans shouted, "Go back to Russia"! Won 3-0! Ukrainians employed as labourers - digging, laying pipes, making roofs. Paid per hour. Released from P.O.W. status and classed as civilians. Choir disbanded - men met girlfriends etc. Gang leader for Ukrainian labour gang. Foreman "tried to be funny with me" - fought him - sacked. At this time, English very good and transferred to Electrical Instillation firm. Went to technical college and became Electrical Engineer. Lived with girlfriend's parents, Long Road, Scunthorpe and organised Ukrainian Society in Scunthorpe. Roman Catholic church. Ukrainian priests gave service. Still have minute book from first meeting 29 May 1955. Ukrainian fractured in London over politics. 18 people at first meeting. second, 26 people, third, 23 people. Elected as Chairman. Met at nissan hut, Frodingham Road. Ukrainians employees of steelworks, Dragonby mines and lived at local camps. Started club, premises, choir practice. Stage in nissan hut. Ukrainian school for children - expanded community. Started at Lysaghts steelworks. Nationalisation - training instructor for British Steel in electrical engineering. "Some people jealous of me climbing up the ladder." End Side A, Tape 4 Tape 4, Side B Headmaster and teacher at Ukrainian Saturday school Went to Lysaghts, met labour officer Henry Cross. Explained working background at Kidby power station. Offered job - handy man 1955. First time ever on steel works - joined Electric Shop - 'jointers group'. Evening classes - O.N.C. North Lindsey College of Tech. 'Lecturer didn't think I would last the pace - proved him wrong'. Got flying colours! Disappointed by attitude of British workmen. Clocking in, tea, sandwiches, reading papers, get to work and tea break etc.! Maintenance people - 'unnecessary evil'. Production counted. Like to mix - talk about football etc. Some short sighted - didn't want me to get on. More interested in education and not type of job or money. Passed ONC - firm wrote letter to Electrical Union - Communist dominated - member of union. Paid wages weekly. ��8 per week. Promoted to craftsman. Always solving electrical problems, always doing something. Knew plant inside out. Paid for overalls; danger boards, substation. Works permit. Test lamp - safety conscious. Accident - minor - splashes. Burst pipes. Have to be aware - make split second decisions. No privileges for Ukrainians at Lysaghts. App-Frod had liaison officer, Mr. Sieskovich. Problems with Hungarians who joined Lysaghts after 1956 uprising. Cable gang - later joined maintenance sections. Had to be separated - a bit big headed, had to learn to speak English. Ukrainians on different shifts, split up. Invited foreman to Ukrainian Christmas parties. Sectional engineer in rolling mill - offered me a job cleaning in mess room of his dept. Used to ask me to help calculate electrical problems! A cheek! Enthusiastic - asked to train apprentices in electronics. Training electrical officer. Eventually designed syllabus and lectured at Tech. College. End Side B, Tape 4 Tape 5, Side A Training Officer based at new centre at hysaghts. Transferred to civil engineering building at App-Frod. A/C D/C current and electronics. New technology. Replace old 'contact' gear with more sophisticated equipment. Trainees had to pass all subjects. At new training centre more practical. Learn to maintain equipment. Rewarded ��200 - proposal of new syllabus. 'Electrical and Process Control Training Officer'. Understood 'lads' - discuss any problems.

    Older engineers - frightened of younger generations - more academic. So wouldn't teach lads - object to loaning equipment. Used to steal equipment from plant 'for the training of the lads'! Anchor project. Inspect trainee log books - make sure engineers would train lads. 'Cared about lads' - repay Britain for all the help given to me. Anchor - 'fantastic plant'. Live in Park Wood area of Scunthorpe. Chairman of Conservative Party and candidate to local council elections. Teach at Ukrainian schools. Lectures to British on Ukrainian culture. Official translator at courts. Polish/Ukrainian offences, e.g. Polish sailors shoplifting, Russian ship captain not reporting dog aboard, Ukrainian stabbed by another Ukrainian, 'hanky panky'! At first very few Ukrainian women in Britain - later arrived from Poland/Yugoslavia. Married 1953 by Ukrainian priest in Catholic church. Two daughters, Anna and Petrina. Never planned to stay in Britain. Explains financial background of Ukrainian club and political problems with Ukrainian community in Britain. Ukrainian Youth Centre - songs, training. Went to Belgium - very active in spare time with Ukrainians. Retired in 1983 - redundancy. Training and re-training courses at Training Centre. Senior lecturer, "loved my lads" - find goodness in each lad - training is like an investment. Respected steel industry. Trusted by Training manager - went to local schools to see how maths and science taught. Many applications - after training, not obliged to stay with BSC - best training in area. Interviews - foreman, union men and myself. End Side A, Tape 5 Tape 5, Side B Age range 16-20/21. BSC offered apprenticeship, technical college and later university. Reduction of intake - today training centre closed down - training at technical college. Usually intake, 130 for craft apprenticeships - most made it to the works. Two or three girls trained, but didn't go into steel industry. Suspended some lads for not filling log books. Also had 'cheaters' - not going to technical college, sat in cafes instead. Sacked. 1980 strike - apprentices not affected. Describes interview process. Each lad 'unknown' quality. Would come to works with attitude of being 'a man'. Had a lot to learn. On retirement - presented with financial collection and reception. Discuss future of steel industry and technology. Ran away from socialism in Soviet Union - chose Conservative Party, Mrs. Thatcher. Resigned over British policy of selling cheap food to Soviet Union. Food would never reach the people who are needy. Thatcher classed Ukraine as a 'province' - 'hurt my feelings'. Travel to Ukraine. Needs to teach tolerance to people. Asian community at steelworks. Comparison of circumstances between Indians and Ukrainians in Britain. English language courses at steelworks. Started as labourer and got more responsible jobs. Taught Asian apprentices. Some got boring/unpleasant jobs during apprenticeship. Fought against indecency at works. Believe everything must be 'correct' at works. Also taught Arabs from Saudi Arabia, before electrical training, had to teach them English as well. Fridays - prayers, but secret drinking at the Crosby Hotel. "Allah is not watching us here!" Understood discrimination, what it's like to be a foreigner - but "never offended by those lower than me!" End of Interview

  • Notes:
    Recording date: 1991
    Collection title: NLSC: Lives in Steel
    Duration: 5 hr. 14 min.
    Access restrictions: FULL CLEARANCE

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