"Don’t Tell the Nazis!" - The Holocaust in Ukrainian Canadian Historical Fiction

Mateusz Swietlicki , University of Wroclaw (Institute of English Studies)

In most historical novels for young readers set during World War II Ukrainians are the antagonists. For example, in Louis Begley’s Wartime Lies (1991), they are depicted as Nazi collaborators who only rape women and act “like wild animals” (126). Studying anglophone Holocaust books, Kokkola mentions Ukraine thrice – each time in the context of collaboration with the Nazis. Rachel Dean-Ruzicka, in her remarkable Tolerance Discourse and Young Adult Holocaust Literature, references Ukraine once – “mobile killing squads (Einsatzgruppen) were often the ones that decimated Jewish populations, particularly in the [sic!] Ukraine” (12). Notably, the book came out fourteen years after Kokkola’s Representing the Holocaust. At least four mainstream Ukrainian Canadian World War II-themed books were published in the meantime but they are not mentioned. Incomparably more Ukrainians fell victim to the Nazis or fought against them than collaborated, but “the Ukrainian side of World War II remained largely unknown in the United States because of Cold War politics” (Katchanovski “NOT Everything”). What I find crucial in my analysis is that “[i]f YA Holocaust literature has the potential to ask readers to engage with the Other in order to encourage appreciation and acceptance, it is incredibly important that the texts do more than recreate limiting stereotypes” (Dean-Ruzicka 83). Examining books by Ukrainian Canadian authors, also ones tackling the complex Ukrainian-Jewish and Ukrainian-Polish relations, I explore how contemporary writers attempt to introduce untold Ukrainian voices to Canadian history and cultural memory. Voices which show Ukrainians in a different way, yet one matching the Canadian multicultural narrative. Children’s literature published in the last three decades, especially anglophone historical fiction, due to its more universal appears, is of tremendous importance in the transcultural and intergenerational transfer of memory and historical discourses.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 129. Childhood in Times of Turbulence