The community of prisoners Ukrainians of the Freistadt camp (Austria-Hungary) at the final stage of its existence (end of 1917 – 1918)
The article reproduces some aspects of the life and everyday life of captured Ukrainian soldiers in the Freistadt camp (Austria-Hungary) at the final stage of its existence (end of 1917 – 1918). It is established that the last phase of the Ukrainian captive community in Freistadt was marked by dramatic events, which led to a catastrophic deterioration of the economic situation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire due to the depletion of all its material resources and the impending military defeat in the First World War.
Revolutionary events in Russia, the liquidation of the autocratic system there and the military defeats of the Russian army slowed down the destructive phenomena in the empire for some time, but were unable to give a «second» life to the already ineffective imperial organism in the new conditions. The food crisis was first felt by prisoners of war against the Austro-Hungarian warring armies, whose situation deteriorated markedly. The lack of food also had a very negative effect on the situation of Ukrainian prisoners from the Freistadt camp (although it had a special status), leading to a significant reduction in cultural and educational work.
At the same time, the life of the community was complicated by sharp internal contradictions between individual members of the camp organizations, which eventually led at the end of 1917 to the temporary cessation of the work of the GUR with the subsequent re-election of its members. However, this conflict was resolved fairly quickly – almost without the intervention of the IED, which did not actually have any effective tools for this at the time. Overcoming this latest crisis has shown the maturity and responsibility of the vast majority of members of the Ukrainian camp community, who were not tempted by the demagogic slogans of one adventurer and his followers.
The proclamation of the Fourth Universal marked the highest patriotic uplift of the campers, who believed in the possibility of their speedy return to Ukraine, which needed soldiers-defenders and public workers. Due to this, the vast majority of the camp assets joined the «Sirozhupanna» division, which was formed in Volodymyr-Volynskyi. But the lack of any assistance to the prisoners from the UCR, the fleeting political perturbations, the slowing down of the repatriation process – sowed deep disappointment in the souls of the prisoners.
Nevertheless, despite all the difficulties and obstacles, the Ukrainian cultural, educational and national-patriotic work in the Freistadt camp did not stop, thanks to which the camp remained the main base for the formation of the mentioned division. The centre of organized Ukrainian life was the Liquidation Committee, whose members made every effort to restore it after the departure of a large part of the camp. The latter had the opportunity to provide material assistance to those captured Ukrainians who took an active part in cultural and educational work or went to form a division in Volodymyr-Volynskyi.
The departure of most Ukrainian activists from the camp as part of the replenishment of the mentioned division (February-March 1918) led to the curtailment of the work of all camp organizations and institutions. And although the camp continued to serve as a base for replenishing the ranks of the «gray-collar workers», the organized Ukrainian life in Freistadit, as of mid-summer 1918, almost did not manifest itself, and by the end of autumn the camp was liquidated. The main achievement of the IED in this camp was a radical irreversible change in the minds of Ukrainian prisoners, which made it possible for real patriots to appear in the camp, ready to defend their homeland with weapons in their hands.
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