About the Project

During the Second World War, more than 2 million people were deported from the Ukrainian territories for forced labor to Germany, allied, or occupied European countries. People of different sex and ages were among them; even children were not spared. At least a quarter of these forced laborers never returned home: they died of diseases, harsh detention conditions, deliberate executions, and bombings; or they emigrated after the war's end. And even in the post-war Soviet Union, they were faced with suspicion from the authorities, and often hostility from their neighbors. And that's why many of them were forced to keep silent about their experiences, even in the family circle.

Nowadays, after the Russian attack on Ukraine, the last of these people are experiencing another war in their lives. The words "occupation", "forced labor", "bombing", and "filtration" again describe their and our reality.

“While staying in Germany”* is an online archive of over 150 photographs of Ukrainian forced laborers. For them, it was one of the ways to document their solidarity and mutual support, to communicate with each other and their relatives in Ukraine.

* The project name reflects the original inscription "During the stay in Germany", which was most often used on the backs of the photos by forced laborers in Nazi Germany.

In most cases, we don’t know who are the owners of these photos nor who is depicted in them. We have managed to buy them over the past few years at online auctions and flea markets. It is not known for sure how these photos got there. Apparently, after the owners' death and because of their descendants' indifference. In a commercial setting, photographs become just a commodity, losing the stories behind them.

However, each of these photos can tell more than what it shows. In some cases, we managed to identify forced laborers, find additional information about them in the archives, or contact people who knew them.

We hope that through our joint effort we will be able to learn more about those who are depicted in these photographs. Look through them. Read the inscriptions on the backs. Maybe, you know people on them? Were there any members of your family who survived forced labor? Do you keep their photos, letters, or other materials? Contact us and share your story.

The project was implemented with the support of Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung from the funds of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of the Federal Republic of Germany.

If you have photos of forced laborers in Nazi Germany and stories related to them – let us know.

Our team:

Anna Yatsenko – cultural manager, project coordinator
Andrii Usach – historian, researcher of the project
Olena Martynchuk – cultural anthropologist, project researcher
Andrii Dostliev – artist, designer, author of an online platform
Tetiana Pastushenko – historian, project expert
Hanna Lehun – historian, project expert
Veronika Klymska – editor
Halyna Vyliika – translator, editor
Alina Zhurbenko – translator
Yuliana Dradrakh – accountant