My Family Lived During Turbulent Time
I was born in the Town of Donetsk at the end of Russian CivilWar
And now, alas, blood flows there again!
My family lived during the tragic time of the bloody Russian Revolution and Civil War that destroyed Old Russia. My father, Orest M. Gladky, at age sixteen, was a volunteer in the White Army fighting the Red Army in the last battles for Crimea. The Reds won and established the Soviet Union, the first Socialist state, under the dictatorship of the Communist Party, the Bolsheviks and Stalin’s bloody terror. As a White Army veteran, my father, was formally declared by the State to be “the enemy of the people” and relentlessly persecuted by the State secret police. To evade his pursuers, our family was driven to move from place to place in our native Ukraine.
My mother, Antonina G. Gladky, was a teacher, and from 1922 to 1924 she taught Russian Language and Literature at the school for adult workers in Yuzovka (now Donetsk.) One of her students was young Nikita Khrushchev and she had an encounter and contact with him later when he was rising in the Communist Party ranks. In 1968, she wrote her memoirs that included unique insight of a teacher into Khrushchev’s politically formative years as a communist politician and a rising Party Leader.
My father, Orest M. Gladky, was a writer from 1945 to 1977 and his stories about the life of people in Russia and the Soviet Union were published in Russian immigrant journals and newspapers in England, New York, San Francisco and Buenos Aires. When my father’s health turned for the worse, he brought the collection of his writings to me and asked to preserve them for future generations, so they would not forget the tragic history of Russia. In 2011 I published his stories in two books “Voices from the Past” and “Golosa is proshlogo” in Russian edition.
We lived in Ukraine during World War Two under German occupation and under constant Soviet artillery fire from 1941 to 1943, when the Soviet Army began to push the Germans back. At that time, the Gestapo arrested my father and deported him to a concentration camp near Makeyevka (about 20 km from Donetsk.) My mother and I enabled his escape from a hospital prison ward. As an escapee, he feared to be captured by the Gestapo. As “the enemy of the people,” he had to flee from the advancing Soviet Red Army. We boarded a ready-to-depart convoy train full of young people drafted for work in Germany and we became forced laborers in Nazi Germany until 1945, the end of World War Two in Europe.
As the war ended, we lived as Displaced Persons in Germany and Poland and later as refugees in post-war Europe – my parents in England and I in Italy, married to my sweetheart, an Italian airman and a prisoner of war in Germany after Italy quit the war. Our lives, like lives of millions of families in that perilous time, were shaped by history – the twists and turns of war and political post-war decisions by the Allies who allowed millions of refugees from the Soviet Union to be forcefully deported to the Soviet gulags. We were among half-a-million who escaped that tragic fate.
After many years of waiting as refugees in Europe, we received WW Two refugee visas to the United States – my parents in 1958 from England and I, with my Italian husband and two children, from Italy in 1959. We finally found peace and freedom in this “Sweet land of liberty.”
Now you know why I wrote several books of Historical Family Memoirs— I had to share them with inquisitive readers like you. Reading family memoirs, you virtually live with the real family, in their home and community. You go with them for daily work, taste their food and learn their customs and traditions. You witness the time they lived. And… suddenly history is alive!
—Olga Gladky Verro, Author Memoirist