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Ukrainian Ostarbeiters in Canada: Individual and Collective Remembering



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When the Second World War came to an end, some 150 thousand Ukrainian Ostarbeiters (civilian labourers who were forcibly recruited to work for the Nazi economy during the war) refused to return from Germany to the Soviet-dominated Ukraine. Together with other Ukrainian Displaced Persons, they composed the third wave of Ukrainian immigration to Canada. However, to this day, the history of Ukrainian Ostarbeiters in Canada as a separate subject has been overlooked by mainstream Ukrainian-Canadian historical research. There has been a tendency to generalize all DPs under the title “political refugees” without distinguishing Ostarbeiters as a separate category within this group. This thesis addresses the historiographical gap mentioned above. It establishes background that is essential for readers’ understanding of the Ukrainian Ostarbeiters’ war time experiences. Built on oral history interviews with former forced labourers, it reconstructs the process of Ostarbeiters’ immigration to Canada and their integration into Canadian society. Through survey of scholarly texts, newspaper articles, and memoirs, it also explores the nature of the collective memory about Ostarbeiters in the Canadian context. Finally, based on the transcripts of 32 available interviews, the study investigates how former forced labourers make sense of their past and how they present their life experiences. By describing the Ostarbeiters’ experience in Canada, revealing the nature of collective and individual remembering of the forced labour, and challenging certain existing conclusions about all Ukrainian DPs in the Ukrainian-Canadian historiography, this thesis sheds new light on the history of the “third wave” of Ukrainian immigration to Canada and the history of Ukrainian community in Canada. In addition, it contributes to the general history of Ukrainian Ostarbeiters by reconstructing the post-war experiences and analyzing collective and individual memories of those Ostarbeiters who did not return home after the war but decided to resettle to another country instead.



Ostarbeiters, forced labour, oral history, individual memory, collective memory, Ukrainian Canadians.



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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