ISSN 2227-7242 (Print), ISSN 2304-9685 (Online)

Антропологічні виміри філософських досліджень, 2019, Вип. 15

Anthropological Measurements of Philosophical Research, 2019, NO 15


UDC 94(477)

M. A. Slobodyanyuk1*, T. O. Radkevich2*

1*Dnipro National University of Railway Transport
named after Academician V. Lazaryan
(Dnipro, Ukraine),
e-mail, ORCID 0000-0003-2218-0818
2*Dnipro National University of Railway Transport
named after Academician V. Lazaryan
(Dnipro, Ukraine),
e-mail, ORCID 0000-0001-9248-3991



Purpose. The purpose of this paper is to study the behaviour of women in extreme conditions, to establish various social roles of women, ways of their adaptation to extreme conditions on the example of Ukrainian anti-Nazi underground during Second World War. Theoretical basis. The authors derive from the fact that historical anhropology is a leading and promising area of historical research. Originality. For the first time, the authors have shown that in conditions of constant stress state and direct threat to life and health, the behaviour of underground women was determined by adequate survival strategies, i.e. by the life circumstances and personal qualities of the underground members. Conclusions. Permanent existence on the verge of life and death often led women to emotional actions, deviant forms of behaviour. Their actions could be controversial, and the motives – confusing. At the same time, the majority of women left in the Soviet underground chose as a strategy of survival the path of confrontation with occupiers, held true to their choices, often showed courage, ingenuity and self-sacrifice.

Keywords: survival strategy; extreme conditions; woman; gender; stress state; psycho-analisis; fight


The main request of society for the interpretation of the past is an appeal directly to the person himself and his subjective perception of events. One of the most striking evidence was the unprecedented success of the documentary novel by Belarusian writer, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature of 2015 Svetlana Aleksievich (1985), published in 1983, devoted to doctors, nurses, radio operators, snipers, pilots and showing the women’s experience of war and women’s views on Second World War. The work caused a wide resonance among readers, artists, literary critics, his motives were filmed and staged.

Unconventional themes at that time became a manifestation of a new trend in the historical science of the second half of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, the most promising movement of which became historical anthropology. Its decisive feature is the transition from the history of events to the history of personalities. This approach allows not only to establish certain facts, but also their impact on specific people, to find out about their thoughts, feelings and attitudes to these facts (Zabolotna, 2011, p. 23). In this context, not only outstanding but also ordinary people are interesting to scholars. Thanks to the new methodology, we see the past events not only through the eyes of the compiler of the document or the researcher studying it (that is, "from the outside"), but also through the eyes of the participant, the witness of events (that is, "from the inside").

The anthropological studies are closely related to the research on psycho-history – the psychoanalysis-based discipline of historical science. Psycho-history (historical psychology) tries to explain the actions of "individuals in historical groups"; what emotional, psychological factors influenced the events, determined their features; how the mentality of people changed over a certain period of time. One of the founders of psycho-history is the American psychologist Lloyd DeMause (1982), who in his book "Foundations of Psycho-History", argued that psycho-history is a science of historical motivation (p. 336).

Among the issues dealt by the specialists in historical anthropology one should single out those able to help in the study of the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine: war symbols and myths; psychology of battle, heroic impulse and panic; fatalism, religiosity and superstition; the state and features of the population mass consciousness during the war years; reflection of the wartime realities in the mass consciousness; thoughts and feelings of man in the extreme conditions of war; deviant behaviour as a mechanism for adaptation to socio-economic conditions; the psychological impact of propaganda on the population of the occupied territories.

Anthropological studies were not rejected by Soviet science, but they were not at the centre of attention. Even in such issues, researchers had to seek out an ideological component, stating that, despite the difficulties, women lived as befits Soviet people. The well-known researcher in the Second World War history M. Koval criticized the historiography of the USSR for a subjectivist approach that prevented an objective understanding of the historical process. This approach was manifested, on the one hand, in magnifying the actions of individual officials and exaggerating the significance of the events in which these individuals were involved, and on the other, in humiliating the role of the masses. Under such an approach, the actions and heroic deeds of ordinary people become faceless, non-personified, commonplace (Koval, 1995, p. 14).

With the proclamation of Ukraine’s state independence, the scientific elaboration of this topic has gained momentum, but is also not exhaustive. One of the leading domestic experts in the field of anthropology of the Second World War is the Ukrainian researcher I. Gridina (2010), who accurately expressed the essence of anthropologization: "The anthropologization of history, including that of the Second World War, is explained by the desire to pay tribute to the main factor of any war – a man". She is convinced that the mentality, mindset and psychological orientations of man are an independent factor of political and economic development, affect the peculiarities of social behaviour and to a certain extent determine the mechanism of decision-making.

In November 2013, on the initiative of the Heinrich Boell Foundation’s Office in Ukraine and other international non-governmental organizations there was held the international conference "Central and East European Women and the Second World War: gendered experiences in a time of extreme violence". Discussion of the participation of women in military operations was very interesting, given that for many women who were not subject to compulsory mobilization, the choice to participate in the war was voluntary and, therefore, conscious.

In particular, O. R. Kis’ made an overview of the female issues of the Second World War period in the Western scientific discourse, which began to be deeply investigated since the 1970’s. In the context of our topic, the following observations by the researcher are important. Representatives of the feminist school noted that the androcentrism inherent in the traditional historical science led to the fact that women were depicted through the prism of men’s norms and values. Thereby, Kis’ stressed the need to study women’s survival and resistance strategies in the war conditions (Kis’, 2015, p. 15).

The moral and ethical aspects of gender relations in the partisan environment were mentioned by V. Hinda in his publications. He argued that sexual violence, constant harassment, physical and moral injury have become a rigorous routine of the weak sex in partisan groups. However, women often voluntarily agreed for the status of "campaign wives" widespread among the officers if it promised them certain preferences (Hinda, 2015). Among the latest scientific papers one should note A. Danilova’s (2014) thesis, in which the author tried to highlight the private sphere and leisure of people, gender and interpersonal relations in the Soviet partisan detachments. At the same time, survival strategies, behaviour patterns and the role of women in the underground have not yet become the subject of an advanced, thorough study.


The purpose of this article is to study the behaviour of women in the extreme conditions of the underground struggle during the German occupation, to identify their motivation and survival strategies, using a multidisciplinary combination of methods of psycho-historical and gender studies.

Statement of basic materials

First of all, it is necessary to find out in what living conditions the participants of the Soviet underground had to live. Despite the established stereotypes, the priority tasks for the underground women were not the struggle, but the provision of basic needs for survival. Except the houses where the Germans lived, there was no electricity, central heating, water supply and sewerage in Kyiv. The consequence of the war was the appearance of long-forgotten illnesses and mass lice infestation. Every female inhabitant of occupied Kiev faced the problems of how to make a living, save or restore health, where to live, where to buy food, how to build family relationships, how to help their relatives. It was these worries that took most of the time of the average woman.

In the winter of 1941-1942, the Nazis caused a famine in the capital of Ukraine, from which thousands of city people perished. It is significant that in November 1941, the agenda of the party assembly of underground members had only two issues: the organization of underground district committees and the organization of food supply.

Sometimes the need led the underground members to the brink of the tragic and the ridiculous. For example, after the betrayal of D. Blagov, part of the underground members were timely warned about the need to immediately change their habitation. But Frania Chmelova, the owner of one of the safe flats of the G. Golets’s group, was arrested only because she went home to take the last pillow (CSAPOU (Central State Archives of Public Organizations of Ukraine),
F. 1, reg. 22, case 351, p. 97).

Fortunately, gradually the underground became surrounded by material base and experience for its regular replenishment. Different ways were used for this purpose: opening of legal artisan enterprises by the underground, trade in the markets, procurement of food in rural areas, voluntary or involuntary involvement of workers of occupation enterprises and institutions in material support of the underground, bank robbery, etc.

An important psychological factor that influenced the mood and behaviour of underground members, became a state of confusion in the first months of occupation. The unexpectedly brutal repression of the Nazis, the defeat of the Red Army on the front led to the spread of the atmosphere of fear, the manifestations of passivity and even betrayal in the underground environment. Some members of the party concluded that the Soviet authorities would not return and began to adapt to new conditions. Some changed their place of residence and disguised, the others took
a wait-and-see approach. Only a small percentage of Communists and Komsomol members took part in the active opposition to the enemy.

On the example of the underground of the Zaliznychnyi district of Kiev, one can assess the situation that prevailed in the first months of occupation. The beginning of arrests and executions:

Caused in the midst of unstable people… the desire to surrender in order to only save their lives. Some succumbed to the threats of Hitler’s bandits and refused to work. Ivanov, Didenko concerning the work proposal of com. Pirogovsky responded with a categorical refusal, while Chernota (ex. Chairman of the Raiprofsozh (District Committee of Railmen Labour Union)), having worked 1.5-2 months, quitted the organization and left Kiev. (SAKO (State Archives of Kyiv Oblast), F. P-4, reg. 2, case 86, p. 6)

The messenger of the City Committee Vera Aristarkhova stated that "if you demand work from me, I will not work and will report to the Gestapo". Secretary of the City Committee K. Ivkin decided to talk to her, but the conversation became fatal for him and the whole organization. V. Aristarchova became a traitor (CSAPOU, F. 1, reg. 20, case 369, p. 61).

Some Kyiv inhabitants refused to help the underground because of fears for their relatives. Probably it was exactly the case when the wife of Mykola Artyushenko flushed down the toilet several kilograms of explosives determined to undermine the water-pumping station (CSAPOU, F. 1, reg. 22, case 349, p. 87).

Other, on the contrary, excessively attracted members of their family to illegal activities. So, some of the underground groups of the G. Golets’s organization admitted new members from relatives (husbands, woves, sisters, brothers). Too many such persons led to the adoption of false decisions, dictated not by the obligation to the Motherland, but by blood ties. For example, the group of Ponomarenko-Gryshchenko included the Mochulsky family. Thee family head – Zhora Mochulsky was known as an unreliable person abusing alcohol and having relations with the women of pleasure. This could lead to the failure of the entire group. However, companions, feeling pity for his wife and children, confined themselves to conversations. Finally, Mochulsky was arrested and delivered all the group to the Gestapo (SAKO, F. P-792, reg. 1, case 191, p. 8).

The moral atmosphere in many underground groups did not contribute to the observance of the safety rules as well. A constant companion of some underground organizations in Kyiv, including the underground city committee, became drunkenness, sexual depravity, fecklessness. If these phenomena penetrated the collective, then naturally led to internal conflicts, weakening of discipline and failures. Alexandra Gerasimova in her testimonies depicted a general picture of the relationship between men and women in the Kyiv underground in the spring-summer of 1943:

Our guys have begun to drink much recently… In general, in the organization there appeared a lot of women… who behave badly. The money got for the organization are drunk away. In particular, Sonya Lavrinenko shacked up with Pechersky and in one of the drink binges she was jealous of his attention to a messenger. There was a full-blown scandal in this regard, and Sonya decided to poison Pechersky. Pyatnitsky said that they did not know what to do with Sonya Lavrinenko, obviously, she had to be liquidated. The organization faced failure afetr failure. The girls drank heavily, scandals began. Several times it came to the point that almost the entire organization had to fail … I saw Gennady and he told me that he was going to Znamenka and took Sonya with him in order to remove her because she wanted to rat him out because of jealousy. (CSAPOU, F. 1, reg. 22, case 351, p. 52)

Certainly, such actions cannot cause sympathy, but have some explanation. The extreme conditions of the underground, when its participants were in a constant state of stress (household inconveniences, malnutrition, illness, constant fear of arrest or execution, atmosphere of suspicion, psychological incompatibility with individual colleagues), resulted in changes in the psychology and behaviour of underground members, especially their female part, whose psychological tension caused emotional breakdowns and deviant manifestations.

Negative manifestations in the underground environment were often facilitated by an inefficient and dishonest leadership, as can be seen from the example of Bronislava Petrushko. She was introduced to the Bureau of the Railway Underground District Committee, headed by O. Pirogovsky, in mid-1942. Before this Bronislava did not fight against the invaders. Nothing concrete was done by B. Petrushko in the district committee as well. And in June 1943, she suddenly became secretary of the Kyiv underground city committee. The circumstances in which B. Petrushko occupied this post demonstrated that the basis of this person’s motivation was not so much ideological patriotism, as adventurism and careerism, fear of the return of Soviet power, material interest.

At the post-war meeting of the bureau of her native district committee B. Petrushko received a very negative reference:

She behaved like a political adventurer. Throughout the time of communication with Raicom (district committee), she did not create any underground Bolshevik group… Since May 1943, feeling the approach of the front line, and therefore knowing that it will soon be necessary to report to the party bodies about her work, knowing that there is nothing for her to report, because she had been idle all the time, she began to show "special activity" in her work, violating all principles of party conspiracy, allowing for casual and numerous acquaintances with clearly dubious people. (SAKO, F. P-4, reg. 2, case 86, p. 58)

As we see, the actions and motives of the underground female members could be contradictory, their personal qualities were not always positive, but it was these non-ideal, "living" people who, to the best of their abilities, were fighting against the enemy. Despite numerous examples of the negative behaviour of underground members, we note that they continued anti-fascist activities. Consequently, each of them had enough courage and love for the Motherland. The extreme living conditions in occupation, the complexity of the psychology of people who were in the occupied territory, the multifactor of influence on their behaviour patterns led to the fact that often the boundary between morality and immorality was almost invisible or could change several times. And although one and the same person could show not her best side in personal relationships, but in the struggle with the occupants she often showed positive qualities of her character.

Thus, according to the arrested messenger Galina Salan, the leaders of the underground behaved with dignity in the German prison. Chernyshov often sang revolutionary songs, and O. Pirogovsky offered her his boots with the words: "I am bound todie, and you will probably have to be in a concentration camp" (Chepizhko, F. 1, reg. 22, case 135, p. 49).

One of the manifestations of heroism is the participation of Olga Svitlychna in the underground, who, being a Jew, was exposing herself and her children to a double mortal danger. In order to hide her Jewish origin, the underground members forged for Olga a document signed by the priest and with a church seal stating that Svitlychna is Orthodox and baptized in the church. Also, for greater certainty, she was offered to convert her to Christianity. The main duty was to obtain a conspiracy apartment (Yelisavetskiy, 2004, p. 107). It was at Svitlychna’s apartment where all meetings of the Railway Underground District Committee took place.

Legendary member of the underground became Tatiana Markus. The report of the Kyiv underground city committee of KP(b)U sais about the girl:

A brave, fearless member of Komsomol… an active participant in a fighter-subversive organization, she personally killed dozens of German soldiers and officers, traitors, by suffocating and poisoning. She fulfilled the most responsible tasks of the organization for the preparation of diversions… . (SAKO, F. P-4, reg. 2, case 1, p. 139)

In particular, T. Markus shot the Gestapo agent Mironovich during a date. One of the underground members testified to this episode as follows:

Tanya Marcus was a very beautiful 19-year-old girl. Although she is
a Jewish, but does not look like a Jew. We gave her the task of getting acquainted with him at all costs… We decided that at the time when he comes from work, Tanya will pass by his house and talk to him or ask for something and thus get acquainted… Upon 5-10 minutes after he had arrived home, she went to him, called… and began to ask another surname. He replied that there was not such a person there. Well, she said that she had been given this very address; after all, they talked, she began to make eyes at him and they become acquainted. Well, the first night did not work out, but at the second night she got to his house. It seems she was with him two evenings, stayed overnight… Having spent a night with him, she… came again, flirted, they kissed and hugged, finally she said:

"You only play and play, I am hungry"… he asked to wait a minute. He went to the second room and started cooking. She took a pistol out of her handbag, walked over to him, at that time he was cutting the bread, hugged him with one hand, took out a gun with the second one, put it to him and shot straight into the temple. (CSAPOU, F. 1, reg. 22, case 366, p. 80)

In August 1942, Tatiana was arrested by the Germans, she denounce nobody and was shot. In 2006, T. Markus was awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine.


The authors first discovered that in conditions of constant stress and direct threat to life, the behaviour of the underground women was determined by various survival strategies.


After analysing the lives of women in extreme conditions of the underground, we can come to a few conclusions. First, their survival strategies were different and determined by the life circumstances and personal qualities of the underground members, such as: decisive struggle against the Nazi "new order", wait-and-see attitude, adaption to strict reality, cooperation and betrayal. Secondly, most of the women left in the Soviet underground chose the path of confrontation with the occupiers and held true to their choices. Thirdly, the roles played by women in the underground were diverse: from the messengers and landladies of the safe flats to the heads of underground organizations. Fourthly, the constant stress state, the permanent existence on the verge of life and death often led women to emotional actions, deviant forms of behaviour, difficulties in dealing with other underground members, and sometimes manifestations of immorality.

Therefore, even through time, the historical tradition and official narrative of documents it becomes noticeable that the fighters with the occupants, as well as other people, loved, feared, were sick, mistaken, and conflicted. Their actions could be controversial, and the motives – confusing. In these difficult circumstances, they continued to fight and contributed to the victory over Nazism.


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1*Дніпровський національний університет залізничного транспорту
імені академіка В. Лазаряна (Дніпро, Україна),
ел. пошта, ORCID 0000-0003-2218-0818
2*Дніпровський національний університет залізничного транспорту
імені академіка В. Лазаряна (Дніпро, Україна),
ел. пошта, ORCID 0000-0001-9248-3991


підпілля в дзеркалі історичної


Мета. На прикладі українського підпілля в роки Другої світової війни дослідити поведінку жінок в екстремальних умовах, виявити їх мотивації та стратегії виживання; встановити різні соціальні ролі жінок, способи їх адаптації до екстремальних умов. Теоретичний базис. Автори виходять з того, що історична антропологія є провідним і перспективним напрямом сучасних історичних досліджень. Наукова новизна. Авторами вперше показано, що в умовах постійного стресового стану та прямої загрози життю й здоров’ю поведінка жінок-підпільниць визначалася адекватними стратегіями виживання, тобто визначалася життєвими обставинами та особистими якостями підпільниць. Висновки. Перманентне існування на межі життя і смерті часто призводили жінок до емоційних вчинків, девіантних форм поведінки. Їх дії могли бути суперечливими, а мотиви – заплутаними. Разом із тим, більшість залишених у радянському підпіллі жінок обрали як стратегію виживання шлях протистояння окупантам, зберегли вірність своєму вибору, часто проявляли сміливість, винахідливість та самопожертву.

Ключові слова: стратегія виживання; екстремальні умови; жінка; гендер; стресовий стан; психоаналіз; боротьба


1*Днипровский национальный университет железнодорожного транспорта
имени академика В. Лазаряна (Днипро, Украина), эл. почта,
ORCID 0000-0003-2218-0818
2*Днипровский национальный университет железнодорожного транспорта
имени академика В. Лазаряна (Днипро, Украина), эл. почта,
ORCID 0000-0001-9248-3991


пОдпОЛЬЯ В зеркалЕ ИсторичЕСКОЙ


Цель. На примере украинского подполья в годы Второй мировой войны исследовать поведение женщин в экстремальных условиях, выявить их мотивации и стратегии выживания; установить разные социальные роли женщин, способы их адаптации к экстремальным условиям. Теоретический базис. Авторы выходят из того, что историческая антропология является ведущим и перспективным направлением современных исторических исследований. Научная новизна. Авторами впервые выявлено, что в условиях постоянного стрессового состояния и прямой угрозы жизни поведение женщин-подпольщиц определялось адекватными стратегиями выживания, то есть определялось жизненными обстоятельствами и личными качествами женщин. Выводы. Перманентное существование на грани жизни и смерти часто приводили женщин к эмоциональным поступкам, девиантным формам поведения. Их действия могли быть противоречивыми, а мотивы – запутанными. Вместе с тем большинство оставленных в советском подполье женщин избрали как стратегию выживания путь борьбы с оккупантами, сохранили верность своему выбору, часто проявляли смелость, находчивость, самопожертвование.

Ключевые слова: стратегия выживания; экстремальные условия; стрессовое состояние; психоанализ; борьба

Received: 16.09.2018

Accepted: 21.03.2019

doi: © M. A. Slobodyanyuk, T. O. Radkevich, 2019

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