DISPLACED PERSONS memorializes the millions of victims of Stalin’s Reign in Soviet Ukraine. The Soviet Union’s new socio-economic order necessitated a political and intentional state-sponsored assault on the Ukrainian population whose national consciousness stood in their way.
DISPLACED PERSONS is also the story of my in-laws, survivors of this period in history, who later found their new life in England, before finally settling in Canada.
I am a Canadian of Ukrainian descent. This project manifests my intellectual and emotional response to this period in history, informed by current research and the stories shared by survivors. I knew several, one of which was my mother-in-law, Tamara. In the almost 35 years that I have known her she has never spoken of that time. Others tell her story. They speak in hushed tones about the night the secret police took her father away. Other survivors speak of family members betraying one another, the night raids, the gulags, the “party men”. Tamara was orphaned as a young girl. She later found herself a ‘displace person’ in an Italian prisoner of war camp. It was here that she met the strangers that would become her new family, including Orest her soulmate. While I have never forgotten their story, it is the feeling that haunts me.
The series is constructed from photographs taken from my mother-in-law’s shoe box. I have complimented these with secret notes, vernacular photographs, and an empty vintage photo album from my private collection. DISPLACED PERSONS explores my impressions of something I will never understand and never forget as I continue to struggle with my identity as a Canadian of Ukrainian descent.