Today, many cities in Ukraine are in the news due to the ongoing conflict and the drama of war refugees. None of the ancient Italian provinces of the Society had missions in Ukraine, some pictures preserved in our Archives tell the stories of soldiers and civilians during other wars in the past century.
During the reorganization of the photographic series of the Province of Veneto – Milan, an album was found containing 147 photographs and the clipping of two maps, without a title or a header.
The photos show in the caption the name of several cities of Ukraine: Perekale, Lawoczne, Bokujma, Lutsk, Tanjawa, others correspond to the current Poland, there are also a couple taken in Shkodra. The descriptions of the photos are written in German.
Most of the mentioned cities are located in the westernmost part of present-day Ukraine around and south of Lviv. At the time when the photos were taken they were part of the declining Russian Empire.
We don’t know much about the history of this archival source. Even if the album arrived with the papers of the Fund of the Province of Veneto – Milan, it does not seem evident the link with this Province. The territories of the current Ukraine were not missions dependent on the Veneto – Milanese, the presence of this source could find an explanation in the history of the few soldiers whose name is reported.
This is the case of Ferdinand Sakulin, portrayed in a photo of January 31, 1916, the words in German define him “Mein Pferd-Diener”, horse servant, this allows us to assume that the photos may have belonged to someone who first-hand collected them.
Otto Reichart is also photographed in Luck, today Lutsk, on 8 December 1915 or Adolf Karger, called cadet, whose date of death is reported: 29 July 1915.
In some photographs, in addition to the place, is inserted some information: “Feirliche Dekorierningim Felde”, “motorbatterie”, in one is depicted the hanging of a man accompanied “Hinrichtung eines spions”, (execution of a spy) in others are depicted Cossacks, or the “erste patrole” (first division). As you may guess from these captions, the photographs tell another war, fought in many of the places still the subject of clashes.
The images were in fact taken between 6 March 1915 and 17 July 1918, during the First World War but for Ukraine and Russia also correspond to some civil wars related to the Russian Revolution and the so-called Polish – Ukrainian War.
The Great War, as we learn by studying it already on the school benches, was a war of position, a trench war, often fought by ill-equipped soldiers. Even these photos tell us about it: you can see the heavy cannons dragged on high snow by horses, soldiers armed with bayonet guns, fortifications made of wooden poles. Many moments of the day of the soldiers are depicted: the distribution of food, the marches, the surveillance shifts, the burial of the fallen. In some photographs are portraits members and some motorized means of the Red Cross, and some Red Cross.
Most of the photos depict snowy landscapes, villages, will be an additional source for the history of Ukraine, especially with the inevitable loss of archival material caused by the current war and those who proceeded. We hope to have in the future scholars interested in viewing and studying this small photographic corpus.