Family stories
Oleh Pavlish
Interview recorded: by Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine 26.09.2015


Oleh Pavlish

Oleh Pavlish was born on June 20, 1971, in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine. He went to school No. 61. After finishing the 8-th grade in 1986 he was preparing to enter the college. He got an education as a karate instructor. He has two children – Alina, born in 2001, and Valeriia, born in 1996. In this interview Oleh recalls his childhood memories with his great-grandfather Mykola and tells us about his diaries. He tells us how these diaries have come to our family and what he remembers about their time together.

My name is Oleh Pavlish. I was born on June 20, 1971, in Kryvyi Rih. I went to the comprehensive school No. 61, which is situated not far from the station Rokovata. I have two daughters – Valeria, born in 1996, and Alina, born in 2001, my wife Olena, who is a geography teacher at school. Our family lives here in our family nest. This house has been built by my great-grandfather Ambvrosii. His grandfather, Mykola Pavlish, also lived here with Olena Petrivna. We lived here with their parents until they built a new house for themselves. I was born in this house; my brother, Dmitri, was born here too. But then we moved to a new house, built by his parents, when I was 5 years old. Then I got married on October 2, 1998. Since then we have been living in this house. My mother’s name is Valentyna, my father’s name is Heorhii. My grandfather Mykola is my father’s dad. My father died in 2007; my mother is still alive and is in retirement now. My mother has been working her entire life as a carpool accountant. My father has been working in the mine his whole life long.

Since my childhood I can remember our garden (I remember us still living in this house), that was the last one in the territory of the village. Such big, almost ancient willows, 3 or 4 girths wide, grew behind our yard. I can remember a wide meadow and a small streamlet running there too. I remember my grandmother unfolding the blanket on the meadow and me as a small boy playing there. I remember taking a shovel as well as digging the land in search of a treasure. I was five years old then.

We still have that big pumpkin from 1928 – hollow inside, with a rope tide to them. This is still the one, my grandpa learned to swim on. And I have also learned it this way. I remember us going to the riverside together with Grandpa. Those days there were no such villas, as there are today. These villas have begun to be build since the 80’s. Only lots of reeds and willows grew there before. Grandpa and I went swimming there, when the water in the river was clean and we were not afraid to get infected by something. I remember the water being so clean, that we could see our feet through the water at a depth of a person’s height.

I had a very strict grandfather. Since my grandfather was a teacher, quite a few people called him by his first name. He was called “Panasovych” in the village. My grandpa was a little bit authoritative, but everyone always respected him. I met many people in the mine, where he used to work. After having heard my name, they asked, „Is Mykola Opanasovych your cousin?“ I usually answered, „Yes, he’s my grandfather!” All spoke very well of him. He was a very strict and good teacher. I felt it myself, while preparing to enter the college, after having finished the 8-th grade in 1986. I went to my grandfather and asked him to help me with mathematics. As a result I was good in mathematics at school and succeeded at all exams. I think it’s because of my grandfather’s work with me. Besides, he has surely transferred me his good genes.

I have not got so many memories about my Grandpa. We usually appreciate people more after losing them. I did not delve so much into the grandfather’s life as well as into what he said. Well, as a small kid, it was usually about running and playing, as far as I remember. After having come back from the army, I went to my grandfather and found him working in the garden. A always came to his house before and he usually said to me, “Let’s work a bit?” I answered, “Let us do!”

One of the main assets that has been passed on to me by my grandparents, I believe, is the love for music, they have instilled in me. Grandpa had been playing accordion his entire life (he was born in 1916). And I took up accordion at the age of 6 years. All our family holidays, when some visitors came to the grandparents’ house, were always full of fun and happiness. Many folk songs sounded and my grandfather played accordion then. Grandpa had not ever learnt music notes, but I knew, that he always wanted to learn the song called „Farewell of Slavianka.“ So I learned the music notes myself and taught them to my grandfather.

I remember our grandfather being a serious and smart man with a well trained body, who had even never smoked. And if he drank some alcohol during the holidays or on other occasions, that was just a little bit. When I was back from the army and came to visit him in his household, he was working in the garden. I said, „Grandpa, I have come!“ My grandfather started crying at that moment. He kept working in the garden and playing accordion until the last minute of his life. Grandpa died with 79 and half years. Until recently he kept managing the household himself, working in the garden, going to the store and even stoking the stove. He kept doing everything-everything himself. Unfortunately, we had not been able to install the gas line in his house earlier. We had already built the chimney for this purpose, but did not manage to completely install the gas line there.

Let me say, when I was a little boy and lived together with my grandparents here, I did not show much interest in their life. My grandfather worked as a teacher. He told me something about the war, because he was known to have got injured there. He had a small plastic plate under his rip, because he had been wounded by an exploding shell. I still can remember myself lying by my grandfather in bed and knocking on his skin at that wounded spot. I could feel something under my fingers – something like a small plastic plate, a bone or a piece of glass. But in general, he did not like to talk about the war very much, because grandfather was not directly involved in war battles. He enjoyed the so called status “Under Military armour”, because he was a very skilled teacher at that time, so that he was set free from the army service and could use some other discounts. Usually the people with sporting and other achievements acquire this status.

I have never seen my grandfather while writing his diaries. You would probably ask why so. My grandmother Olena Petrivna died in 1983. And since winter 1984 grandfather kept visiting his youngest son Valerii. He had two sons – Heorhii and Valerii. Both of them left for the North in 1974, in order to build the city Kostomuksha there. Valerii got married and stayed living there. He has a wife and two children – Sasha and Olya.

Here are the notebooks I am talking about. My grandpa wrote them as autobiographical stories. He usually used to write in winter, while staying by his uncle Valera. In winter he had a lot of free time and spent it on writing his memoires. Our uncle Valera lives in the apartment, where my grandfather used to spend a lot of time writing his memoirs during winter time. Because here, in his house, he usually kept himself busy with the household: he was strongly engaged with the house work, and as soon as he could afford a little rest, he played accordion.

In general, we have not seen these records before. In his notebooks is written „For Heorhii“. This is meant for my father, well, respectively, for his children – for us. I learned many interesting things from these notes. Based on these written records, I could learn quite much about our family tree and thus got the wish to construct one. Here it is: starting with Amvrosii Pavlish and Mariya Andriyiivna (on the grandfather’s side) as well as Semen Suprun and Petro Chaika (on the grandmother’s line). It is, so to speak, only a small part of our family tree, which refers to Mykola Opanasovych and Olena Petrivna.

As far as the family archive goes, Grandpa had his own office in the house, but it was always something inaccessible for me. There were some cabinets with books. I usually was allowed to go there and take a book, but only with the permission of my grandfather. Still, it was a kind of sanctuary for me. After my grandfather had died, we put things in order again. Some books have been thrown away, but others still lie in the library. I have found a lot of different interesting pictures in the book cabinets. These are school photographs, which come from the 20ies or 30ies of the last century. We keep them here. I teach my daughters to learn and know their history. I would also very much like them to appreciate the values like “family”, “tradition” and “respect for elders”. I have found a death notification there as well. Grandfather’s brother fought abroad and disappeared without a trace there. My grandfather sent his letters and notes abroad, because he wanted to know the fate of his brother Hryhorii.

I believe that my grandfather played a very important role in my life, especially because of the education and music. And my grandfather taught me to work on the land. I really enjoy working in the garden. I would tell him „Thank you very much“ for this. And I say now, „Look here, this has been a very old house, but we keep trying to elevate it, that is to make it better.” And I would really like them to see us from heaven – to see how we live – and to know, that their life has not been spent here in vain.

An excerpt from the diary of my great-grandfather:

The Second World War began during my youth – on the first of September, 1939. I learned it when I was at work. The newspapers reported on the continuation of the war in Europe in 1940. The USSR began a partial mobilization. On June 22, 1941, the Great Patriotic War started. In Bozhedarivsk club a film had been shown, after which Stalin or Molotov (I do not remember exactly) addressed to the nation from the broadcast loudspeaker. The local residents began to glue paper box stripes crosswise through their houses. Planes kept flying and bombs buzzing. The war began. Just for the case of bombing, shelling or fire I buried shirts and other documents, which did not fit into a suitcase. There was no thought of what you truly needed to get evacuated. Most of the population lived in very bad conditions during the war. There was no organized supply of food, fuel etc. Enterprises did not work. Employees of mines, factories as well as city residents were forced to work on farms, which became known as civil sector later on.

The interviews are given in the original language or a transliteration of it with preservation of national, regional and individual speech peculiarities.

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