In the process of making the scientific concept of the exposition and its implementation by the scientists of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War, they set the goal of historically adequate reflection of the epic events of the struggle against the Nazi aggressor, which became the central phenomenon of the twentieth century.
The main exposition of the Memorial as the embodiment of the scientific concept not only presents the relics, but also focuses on their informative, cognitive, anthropological and axiological properties. Exposition is deployed in 16 halls with an area of 5 thousand square meters; it has 17 thousand 400 exhibits, is improved and updated. The peculiarity of the exposition interpretation of the content, which greatly enhances the emotional impact, was the filing of historical material through symbols and images that are easily perceived and memorized.
Cross-cut relic composition of the exposition is the so-called "Road of War" - an accent rod, which unites all the halls, connects them thematically and chronologically. The "Road" passes through the center of each hall and is designed as an artistic and historical image of a specific theme. The materials presented in the showcases reveal an appropriate series of events, detailing them through personal human destinies.
Both in the concept and in the exposition, the priority is given to Ukrainian subjects. Despite the fact that in the 1930's and 1940's Ukraine did not have a sovereign state, Ukrainians were among the first to face the aggressor. Even before the Second World War, at the breakthrough of 1938-1939, the newly created Carpathian Ukraine was sacrificed to the geopolitical interests of European states and destroyed by the troops of Hungary.
The Ukrainian dimension of the Second World War was emphasized, because Ukraine, due to its geopolitical and geostrategic situation, became one of the main bridgeheads of the Soviet-German front. For 35 months in its territory there were active military operations of regular troops, which involved about 60% of the Wehrmacht divisions and 50% of the Red Army units. In the war years, almost 7 million people were mobilized from Ukraine, representing 23% of the personnel of the Soviet Armed Forces. Marshals and generals, Ukrainians of origin, headed almost half of the 15 fronts, among the generals of the war period were about 300 Ukrainians. The total human losses of Ukraine are impressive. According to some estimates, they range from 8 to 10 million people.
A highly valued feat of Ukrainian soldiers: over 2,000 of them have been awarded the highest Soviet award - the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of which have been awarded orders and medals.
The heroism and victory, sacrifice and tragedy, general events of the war and individual facts are described with the help of authentic items in the exposition of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War. Another very important feature of this is that the average person who is in the extreme conditions of martial life is in the spotlight.
Ukrainians who lived in different states fought in the armies of the Anti-Hitler coalition against Nazi invaders, in the Wehrmacht and the armies of the Axis powers agains the communist dictatorship, they also fought in the Ukrainian Unsurgent Army (UPA) for Ukraine's freedom and independence.
The topic of defensive battles in Ukraine is covered by various museum facilities in several halls.
The "Road of War" shows the remains of the aircraft, documents and things of crew members who did not return from the battles in July 1941. Four pilots were considered missing for 46 years. Only in 1987, when the aircraft was raised from the swamps near the village Vinnitsky Stavy in Kyiv region, names of heroes became known.
Exhibits show the disaster of the initial period of the war - retreat, encirclement, losses. First of all, there are death notifications. The largest and most complete collection of death notifications in Ukraine is stored in the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World war.
From the first exposition halls - both in the showcases and outside them, separately and in the form of figurative-relic complexes - there are tragic documents of war. From the hall to the hall, their number increases, poured into a continuous river of grief in the Hall of Memory.
Some exhibits of the museum cause the strong emotions, in particular the ration card, according to which the inhabitants of Odesa from the middle of August 1941 received water. In the hot weather in the seaside city ration was set not only on bread, but also on water.
The dramatic retreat from Ukraine's territories is clearly illustrated by photo-documents: domes of St. Sophia Cathedral, streets of Odesa in the war time, destroyed Dniproges, the ruins of Poltava Museum, empty windows of Kharkiv high-rise buildings, terraces of Donbas area on cloudy day. However, even during retreaing, the Red Army soldiers believed that they would return soon. The poem "Ukraine" of the prominent writer Oles Honchar is full of confidence in the Victory. The manuscript of the poem is exhibited in the exposition.
The decisive battles of the Second World War started the liberation of Ukraine. In December 1942, Soviet troops captured the first Ukrainian villages and towns of Milovsky district in Voroshilovgrad region (current Lugansk region), and after the liberation of Kharkiv in August 1943, fighting on the territory of Ukraine had place on a broad front.
From August 1943 till October 1944 Ukrainian land became one of the central bridgeheads of the war. In the museum context several halls are devoted to the restoration of events of this period. One of them is devoted to the battle for the Dnipro and the liberation of Kyiv.
At the end of September 1943 troops of the five Soviet fronts on the 750-kilometer front approached the Dnipro. The Supreme High Command General Headquaters made a decision to take the bridgeheads and start the crossing to get ahead of the enemy who was preparing the defense of the right bank. Soldiers had to solve this problem without training, mostly without tanks and heavy artillery, having lack of floating craft. Under the fire of the enemy, they crossed to the right bank who could: by fishing boats, homemade pontoons, holding logs, boards, cloaks, tents filled with straw. Unfortunately, thousands of soldiers were killed by the enemy, who stubbornly held defense. There remains stayed in the cold autumn water of the Dnipro. Among them there were a lot of newly mobilized locals, who were the first to start bloody offensive for redeeming the "blame" for staying in the occupied territory.
The combatants of the 1st Ukrainian Front fought for Kyiv. On November 6, 1943, the capital of Ukraine was liberated from Nazi invaders. In the exposition there are documents and personal belongings of the commander - Colonel General Mykola Vatutin, who was mortally wounded in early 1944. He was buried in Kyiv.
Exhibits of participants of the Dnipro forcing and battle for Kyiv are constantly attractive for visitors. These are documents and materials of Lieutenant General Ivan Chernyakhovsky, whose army crossed the Dnipro to the north of Kyiv. A brave warrior, the youngest commander of the front, he died in action in 1945 in East Prussia. There is the Diploma for the "Florence Nightingale" medal of the International Red Cross. It belonged to the sanitary inspector Maria Scherbachenko, who saved lives of hundreds of fighters. Nearby are the clothes of the 66-year-old woman peasant Horpyna Tregub, who helped the soldiers to cross the Dnipro. Belongings of many other participants in those turbulent events are exhibited.
Museum resources reveal not only heroic but also tragic pages of the battle for Ukraine. With the help of photographs, authentic documents, archival materials it is alleged that offensive impulses, patriotism, selfless of some warriors, without the rationalism of the command, led to unnecessary losses. Using the human resources of the Left Bank Ukraine, the front command often threw uninformed, poorly equiped recruits into the battle. A lot of military operations, in particular battle for Kyiv, were planned in a hurry, for getting triumph specially by official state holidays. That’s why the number of victims increased. During the Dnipro forcing and the liberation of Kyiv, the total loss of the Soviet troops amounted to almost 1.5 million people.
Since the autumn of 1943, the battle for Ukraine reached its climax. Almost half of the active Red Army was based in Ukraine. The "Ukrainian campaign" involved seven fronts, three military flotilla and the Black Sea Fleet.The Wehrmacht made desperate resistance.
The exposition is an emotional and convincing demonstration of Ukraine's strategic location as one of the important bridgeheads of the war, where dozens of enemy divisions were destroyed, and a significant amount of weapons and combat equipment of the enemy were destroyed. At one of the documentary photo enlargements you can see the crowd of the captured Nazis. On August 16, 1944, 37 thousand soldiers were held in the streets of Kyiv. This picture, which fixed a particular event, is perceived symbolically - the victorious campaign of conquerors in Ukraine was completed.
The dominant complex "Road of War" testifies to the offensive impulse of the Soviet troops. A row of military equipment and weapons, mortar and machine guns is directed forward, everything is reminiscent of the battlefront in 1944.
There are materials of the prominent war veterans, the commanders of the fronts and armies, Ukrainians of origin, and unique ones - the documents and things of warriors pierced with shrapnel and bullets.
The end of October 1944 became a significant line in the calendar of the history of Ukraine. October 28 is the date of the total exile of Nazis from the country. However, the successful results of the battle for Ukraine did not bring peace for the people.
Numerous exhibits illustrate the beginning of the rebuilding of destructed economic and social infrastructure. They also outline a number of social and humanitarian problems that have arisen in the territory liberated from the enemy. So, 10 days after the expulsion of the Nazis from the Crimea, according to the Decree of the Soviet Government, almost 200 thousand Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported to distant areas of the USSR. Representatives of some other nations, declared as "traitors of the Motherland" by Stalin, were also deported. The photo depicts the prominent pilot Amet-Khan Sultan, who, having returned from the front on vacation, witnessed the deportation of his own family. There is also the diary of the Crimean partisan Ramazan Ismailov. He began to write it on the first day of deportation - May 18, 1944. He described the tragic events - the long hard road to exile, poor living conditions, humiliation, death.
The exposition testifies to the resettlement and deportation actions of 1944-1945. More than 700 thousand Ukrainians from Western part of the country suffered of they. There are materials about the famine of 1947 in Ukraine, the armed confrontation between the Ukrainian national movement and the Soviet regime, the largest known battle of this conflict near tract of Gurby, political prisoners of the Gulag and also numerous violations of the law by the Soviet special forces during suppressing the Ukrainian national movement.
Despite the difficult times in the history of Ukraine and its people, life in Ukrainian territories gradually revived. Stork returned to their nests, and the hearts of people were filled with feelings of mercy, faith in justice, hope for a happy future.
The expressive exhibit of one of the show-cases is the Bible belonging to the Ukrainian soldier Arsen Chumak from Volyn. He underlined the prophetic phrase in the text: "... Hold your sword back, those who live by the sword, die by the sword...".
And on the "Road of War" among the broken German vehicles, you can see letters from German women and children to their soldiers and officers who were at the front. These documents indicate: maternal pain, grief of loss relatives does not depend on nationality, ideology or religion. The politics usually initiate wars, but the ordinary people pay the bill.
Much of the exposition is devoted to the display of the final expulsion of Nazis from the territory of the USSR, the Red Army offensive in Central, Southeast Europe and Asia, the Allies and the completion of the Second World War.
Many materials are rare. Among them is a hand-made flag mounted over the building of the Berlin Tempelhof Airport on the night of April 26, 1945, documents and belonging of Ukrainians - fighter pilot Ivan Kozhedub who became the Hero of the Soviet Union three times, artilleryman Vasyl Petrov honored this title twice, who lost both hands, but returned to the front and continued to fight, and many others.
The exposition highlights the final events of war, such as battle for Berlin, the signing of the surrender of Germany on the night of May 8 to May 9, 1945, the warfare in the Far East. Among the numerous exhibits are photos, awards and documents of Lieutenant General Kuzma Derevyanko, a Ukrainian of origin, who was commissioned to sign the Instrument of surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 from the Soviet side. This date is considered the day of the completion of the Second World War.
The exhibition highlights the problem of exposing the occupation policy of Nazism, criminal plans and inhuman methods of their implementation, particularly in Ukraine, where the regime of plundering and terror covered all spheres of life: politics, economy, culture. Ukraine, divided into separate parts and deprived of any signs of statehood, became the object of total exploitation of human and raw material resources.
On the Road of War, there are means for execution: the gallows and guillotines from the Gestapo prison in the Polish city of Wroclaw, as well as the bone crusher used by the Nazis in the Yanivsky concentration camp in Lviv to recycle the bones of the executed prisoners to fertilizers. In Ukraine during the war 4,5 million civilians were killed. 670 villages were completely or partially burned during punitive actions, hundreds of cities and towns were destroyed during the warfare in Ukraine. Conquerors used thousands of echelons to export industrial raw materials, equipment, products of the agriculture, cultural values. Material losses of Ukraine make up 42% of the total losses suffered by the USSR in the war.
Almost 2 million 400 thousand Ukrainians were deported as forcible workers. There are photos, personal belongings and letters of ostarbeiters (Eastern workers). The selected materials depict anti-Semitism, which became part of the official policy of Germany, and illustrates the tragedy of Babyn Yar in Kyiv, where, during two years, since September 1941, more than 100 thousand people were murdered, mostly Jews.
With scientific impartiality, real responsibility for interpreting historical facts, researchers of the Memorial complex created a section devoted to the anti-Nazi Resistance of the Second World War. Relic materials and archival documents reproduce the three main directions of the struggle of the Ukrainian people during the Nazi occupation: the activity of Soviet partisans and underground fighters, the participation of Ukrainians in the Resistance movement against the Nazis abroad, the struggle of Ukrainian nationalists against the German, the Soviet and the Polish troops.
On the "Road of War" is an embodiment of the two main forces of the Resistance in Ukraine: the "paths" of the Soviet partisans and fighters of the Ukrainian insurgent army. Both "paths" are created with the authentic exhibits: kinds of transport, home-made weapons, personal belongings of participants. The show-cases exhibit the basic Soviet state documents about the struggle in the rear of the enemy, photographs, awards and personal materials of the participants and organizers of the underground partisan struggle. Among them you can see the awards and belongings of the prominent commander of the Soviet partisans Sydir Kovpak, the note of the teen underground fighter from Mykolaiv Victor Khomenko, written before his death. The very important collection consists of agitation works by the activist of the Ukrainian insurgent movement, the illustrator and propagandist Nil Khasevych, who died in March 1952.
The contribution of Ukraine and Ukrainian people to the economic competition against the Axis powers is underlined as well.
In the hall where this topic is presented, the "Road of War" contains a relic complex of the imaginary industrial platform located in the open air, and the railroad is a symbol of the connection between the front and rear. In the show- cases are documents and materials that tell about the relocation of human and material resources from the west to the east of the USSR. It was there that 550 largest enterprises, 3.5 million people were evacuated from Ukraine. This was almost half of all industrial capacities put into operation in the eastern regions of the USSR. Evacuated workers in the rear were in an incredibly difficult material and living conditions. They worked without weekends and holidays, 12-14 hours per a day, having permanent deficit of food, sometimes in extreme frost up to 35-40 degrees below zero by Celsius. Women and children mastered the so-called "male" professions, retired people also worked. The explotation of human resources was total.
Among the authentic artefacts there are awards, documents, personal belongings of outstanding people from Ukraine - tank designer Olexandr Morozov, scientist Eugene Paton, famous artists, painters, who inspired both soldiers at the front and workers in the rear.
The real climax of the exposition is the Hall of Memory. Its materials give strong emotions, commemorate the events and people of the tragic past with artistic images and the Ukrainian ethnographic items. The relic compositions "Wall of Memory", "Table for Funeral Dinner", "Cranes", "Widows", "Childhood after War", materials found by the researchers at the former battlefields - all these is purposed for highlightint the key topics of the exposition: the war in the Ukrainian history, the memory about the war, connected with the ancient Ukrainian traditions.
The final stage of the exposition is the Hall of Glory, where approximately 12 thousand names of the Heroes of the Soviet Union and the Heroes of the Socialist Labor are carved with gold on the marble pylons.
The top of the hall is crowned with a multifigure mosaic frieze (sq. 250 sq. m.) And the model of the Order "Victory". Frieze consists of a series of plot compositions: the soldiers' conduct for the war, scenes of fights and the come back of the winners (authors - artists S. and R. Kyrychenko, N. Klein).
The compositions are made in a realistic manner, the frieze style, made in the technique of smalto mosaics, contains the traditions of the monumental art of Kyiv Rus.
The final relic of the main exposition is located on the second floor foyer. It consists of a cross made of the remains of weapons of the Second World War, pierced with bullets of rusty helmets of Soviet and German soldiers and church bell. This composition is an image of pain, loss, reconciliation and repentance, another reminder and warning that peace and harmony on earth depend on the vision and moderation of politicians, the understanding and tolerance of peoples and the memory of the terrible tragedy of the twentieth century - the Second World War.
This is the current main exposition of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War, which was formed from the first days of Ukraine's independence. As already mentioned, the exposition was created in 1994-1995 and is constantly supplemented, optimized and updated.
Historical memory is colorful and does not fit into the framework of stereotypes. Therefore, today, every visitor can find in the exposition images which are close to his feelings, mind and heart.
Re-exposition is still to come.
We invite you to visit the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War, to get acquainted with exhibits, many of which are relic and even unique, as well as with the original exposition of the conceptual design.