Art Review: WWII in Ukraine as seen by Georgiy Malakov

The Internet ushered in a new version of the history of the Soviet Union created online by hundreds of Russian, Ukrainian, Baltic and other users who put their efforts into interviewing surviving witnesses, studying old periodicals and private archives, and arguing about grand events and minute details of history in forums. They have a common purpose: to uncover and publicize the truth about the Soviet Union to replace Soviet propaganda.

It would be hard to find a family in the former Soviet territories that has not been affected by WWII.  My generation grew up with all sorts of wartime stories passed on in families. How much were we told? Episodes were skipped because our grandparents or parents did not want us to spill them in public. Narratives were edited to conform to the official history version. Still, the adults occasionally shared uncensored memory bits, usually with a warning: “Don’t tell others”.

In the 90’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the wartime generations gained the freedom and the Internet to share information, fill in gaps and answer many questions suppressed in the past. Thousands of personal accounts and memoirs by WWII veterans and civilians have been uploaded to online archives like Unfortunately, only a small part of this historical treasure has been translated into English.

Nevertheless, there are different kinds of memoirs that cut through language barriers: works by artists who lived through the war. One of them was Georgiy Malakov, a Ukrainian graphic artist who in his childhood already showed his talent. When Germans occupied his hometown of Kiev in 1941, he was 13 years old and could not live without drawing. Georgiy chronicled his experiences in his pictures, developing a visual diary of life in the Nazi-occupied city. This   album   contains works he drew either during the war or soon after the war, as well as his later graphics based on old sketches like this one:

Closed area: Kreshchatik is burning. Watercolor, ink, pen (1959).

Per Stalin’s orders many buildings in Kiev were mined as the Soviet Army retreated. When Germans took over the city, Soviet secret agents left behind set off the radio controlled mines. The explosions resulted in raging fires, casualties among Kievans and Germans and loss of homes by many civilians.

Linocut prints by Georgiy Malakov:

Kiev on June 22, 1941 when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Luftwaffe bombed Kiev at 4 am the same day. Nobody in the city knew that a war had started (1961).

 Kreshchatik, the main central street, is burning. September 1941 (1961).

During a German air raid. Judging by the New Year tree, it is late December 1943/early January 1944. Kiev railway station is visible in the window (1965).

Hiking home after the liberation of Kiev. During the last days of the occupation the Nazi government ordered the residents to leave the city under the threat of death (1962).

Picture sources:

My ROW80 progress:

  • Made a post about Georgiy Malakov and assembled an album of his artwork. It took lots more time than I expected. First, Internet Explorer installed on my laptop went on strike. After struggling with it for two days, I switched to Mozilla Firefox. Second, the process of uploading multiple images to my blog and translating Ukrainian captions turned out more arduous than I thought. Along the way I discovered an interesting Russian website with a day-to-day overview of events in wartime Kiev, which sidetracked me for hours;
  • Started reading The Turbulent World of Franz Göll: An Ordinary Berliner Writes the Twentieth Century, but advanced little because of the issues above;
  • Revisions – none.

This week’s ROW80 goals:

  • Focus on revising the part covering the Battle of Berlin and its aftermath;
  • Continue reading The Turbulent World of Franz Göll: An Ordinary Berliner Writes the Twentieth Century by Peter Fritzsche, time permitting;
  • Make a book review post. No complicated graphics!


4 comments on “Art Review: WWII in Ukraine as seen by Georgiy Malakov

  1. Sony says:

    These are some beautiful pieces. My favorite is the last one. Something about a woman standing in front of a tank.

    I hope your writing is going well.

  2. Arnika says:

    Very powerful!

    They remind me of the work of Heinrich Zille. Have you heard of him? He portrayed the life of working class Berlin in the beginning of the 20th century. While most of his work would be WWI era, a lot of it was still true in large parts of the bigger cities in Germany all through WWII.

  3. Thank you, Arnika! I looked up Heinrich Zille’s art online and loved his graphics – they are so vivid. Truly the soul and character of blue-collar Berlin.

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