‘Destroyed Microcosm’: The Family of a Parish Priest in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s – 1930s
Today, a significant step has been made in the reconstruction of the everyday life of Soviet society in the 1920s – 1930s. However, the everyday life of the Orthodox clergy and the members of their families requires a special, thorough study. The letters of the parish village priest from Dnipropetrovsk region, Serhiy Andriiovych Mizetskyi, to his relatives – parents, brother Yevhen and son Vasyl, stored in the State Archives of Zaporizhia Oblast (Region), allowed to choose the history of S.A. Mizetskyi’s family as a subject of a microhistorical study. Semiotic analysis of the letters gave the scholar a rare opportunity not only to trace the fate of the priest’s family but also to reconstruct the relationship between family members – members of three generations.
The relationship between Serhiy Andriiovych and his father and brothers reflected the traits of the patriarchal family and was marked by special respect and care for each other. We do not observe this unity in Serhiy Andriiovych’s relationship with his children and wife. The priest’s family, which before the establishment of Soviet power was a kind of microcosm with its self-sufficiency, specific traditions of family life, ceased to exist in the 1920s. Geographically, the children moved away from their father. The legal and financial position of the father-priest did not create conditions for the proper life of his children and forced them to seek a better fate. With the rapid implementation of industrialization, the emergence of new jobs, and under the influence of the father’s arrest, the children finally moved away in the 1930s. They kept in touch with their father through correspondence in which they recounted what happened in their lives. However, even at a distance, Serhiy Andriiovych wanted very much to take part in the upbringing of his youngest son. The father wanted to foster in his children a love of work. At the same time, the priest dreamed that his children would practice music as much as possible and continue the traditional daily routine of an intellectual. The genetically ingrained habits of an intellectual person in a priest’s children could not be changed during a few years. The changing of the worldviews of the clergy children, their transformation from intellectuals to general workers was gradual and painful.
The priest’s relationship with his wife is traced too. Against the background of large-scale social and economic as well as political changes, there was an inevitable shift in the value priorities of the priest’s wife. The fact that the wife refused to live with her husband, to support him in church activities, shows that the traditional patriarchal family of the priest ceased to exist. The priest’s wife fell under the influence of the emancipation processes. However, the self-determination of the priest’s wife was primarily the result of her husband’s unsatisfactory financial situation. The wife actively started to pave her own way to meet the Soviet standards of living coming down from on high and to earn a living.
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