Projects to World War II commemoration day give history back to people, step back from myths and heroisation – Volodymyr Vytarovych


Ukrainian Institute of National Memory presents educational and information projects to World War II commemoration day. All facts-based, focused on human stories the projects aim to restore the truthful historic narrative of World War II.

Kyiv, May 5, 2016. Web site “Ukraine in World War II”, project “The war does not make exceptions” and the book “War and Myth” are information and educational projects to the 71st anniversary of the end of WWII and commemoration of its victims. The projects were prepared by the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory in cooperation with partners. All projects have one aim – “to give back the history to people” by stepping back from the vision of World War II events based on myths and heroisation, said Volodymyr Vyatrovych, Head of Ukrainian Institute of National Memory presenting the web site at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

One of the key projects is the web site “Ukraine in World War II” that consolidates all available materials about Ukraine and Ukrainians during the years of World War II. The materials were developed by historians of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory over the last year. “The website is a handbook that can be actually used by anyone, in particular by school students and professors when getting ready to the classes,” said Vyatrovych. The web site is composed of several thematic sections that include texts, maps, inforgraphics and key events. “The key events section is split by years of World War II from 1939 to 1945. This is not an exhaustive list but only key dates that may serve as a roadmap for further more thorough research of the theme,” said Maksym Mayorov, staff member of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory. There is a separate section for biographies, they are 15 for now. “We are trying to present the history of World War II not only through biographies of outstanding military commanders or political actors but also of common servicemen and civilian people who lived through the events,” noted Mayorov. The web site also has a big photo gallery, video materials, information about thematic projects of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory and e-library that has files available for free download. Materials are to be regularly revised and updated, so that the content will be gradually expanded.

The project “The war makes no exceptions” is devoted to the stories of women in World War II. Thanks to the project historians hope to continue activities of Svetlana Alexievich and step back from the Soviet narrative that used to portray the war from one viewpoint. For a long time women used to be only an addition to men’s history of war, noted Viktoria Yaremenko, staff member of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory. At the same time these stories uncover “quite a different war” devoid of pathos and heroisation. Twelve biographies have been prepared in the framework of the project so far. “These are women who were enlisted in the Red Army, who were fighting as part of the UPA [Ukrainian Insurgent Army – UCMC], these are also Jewish women who tried to survive and give testimony and Ukrainian women who were saving Jews in occupied territories. Among them there are also ordinary women who were waiting for their children to come back from war,” said Yaremenko. “Their age and lifeline is different, but it is this difference that demonstrates that the war is a tragedy, a catastrophe.”

Exhibition “Ukraine in World War II” has been also prepared to the commemorative events. “It is composed of 24 photo stands. The exhibition has already been presented in Lviv, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Konotop,” said Serhiy Gromenko, historian and publicist. On May 7 the exhibition will be showcased at the Boryspil airport, over the Memory Days on the Maidan square. Pictures of the stands are also placed on the newly set up web site.

The “War or Myth” book was prepared to the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazism. It comprises 50 most well-known myths about World War II spread both in the Soviet and Russian as well as in Ukrainian historiography. “The book is prepared by 15 experts each of whom is the best in a certain area,” noted Gromenko. The key debunked myth is a wide-spread statement that the war allegedly started from the sudden attack of the Nazi Germany on the USSR. “We actually understand that the war started from partition of Poland in which both the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union took equal part. The USSR was actually one of the key actors that pushed the world into World War II,” noted Vyatrovych.