«The Hungry Mass Becomes More Apathetic, Indifferent to Everything…»: the Life and Daily Routine of Captive Ukrainian Soldiers in Freistadt Camp, Austria-Hungary (Winter-Summer of 1917)
The paper shows some aspects of life and daily routine of captive Ukrainian soldiers in Freistadt camp (Austria-Hungary) during the winter-summer of 1917. The reform of the captives’ camp life, which took place in early 1917, turned Freistadt into «Ukrainian republic» in Austria because since then the camp governing body was elected by all members of the Ukrainian community on the basis of a general, equal and secret vote. From that time on, the camp commandant’s office no longer interfered with the internal life of captive Ukrainians, and the members of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine (SVU) Educational Department performed only advisory functions. As a result, the prisoners started to run all the facilities in the camp: educational courses, theater, schools, «Zapomogova» box office, cooperative «Chainia», publishing of the newspaper, etc.
But with the growing shortage of food in Austria-Hungary, the food situation in Freistadt was deteriorating considerably and steadily, and eventually, it caused the «hunger strike» of the captive Ukrainians. That step called into question both the conducting of Ukrainian cultural and educational work in the camp and the existence of Freistadt itself. Only the constructive efforts of the SVU, the members of the camp’s Educational Department and the Ukrainian activists, as well as the strong wish of the Austrian authorities to resolve the situation in Freistadt, allowed to avoid the worst and restore the activity of all Ukrainian facilities.
Thus, 1917 became perhaps the most difficult time in the history of the existence of the Ukrainian camp community in Freistadt, due to the lack of effective assistance to captive Ukrainians from the UNR (although taking into account the process of state and political transformation of Ukraine at that time there was no hope for such steps from the Ukrainian Central Rada - UCR). So the captives found themselves in a very difficult situation, receiving only minimal humanitarian assistance from Russian and international charitable organizations. But despite all the difficulties and obstacles, the development of Ukrainian cultural, educational, and national-patriotic work was successful throughout all the year and led to dramatic irreversible changes in the minds of captive Ukrainians, which made it possible to form a state thinking in a large number of Ukrainians in the camp.
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