by Anna Balysheva, Finalist of Program “FLEX” from Kazakhstan.
I devote this article to my great-grandfathers who fought in the World War I against each other.
The World War I happened a long time ago that it almost does not excite us. However that is not the case. An example is my great-grandfathers’ history.
The document shows that my surname is Balysheva. However, in fact I had to bear the surname of Balysh. This is my great-grandfather’s surname who is the World War I veteran. This war tragically changed his fate.
From my loved grandfather on my father’s side I learned that his father (my great-grandfather) was an Austrian prisoner of war and had a surname Balysh. There was the World War I.
· In 1915 a train with Austria-Hungarian prisoners of war who had been taken captive by Russian troops came to Kazakhstan, Kostanay city.
(Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war in Russia.)
· They were located in citizens’ flats. Three Austrian prisoners of war were brought to live in a family and one of them was Balysh. The prisoners of war worked as hard as members of the family.
There was still the World War I and in Russia a revolution happened. Due to this Russia dropped out of the war.
(Pictures of my great-grandmother Pelagia, who is married to an Austrian prisoner Balysh in 1921.)
At first nobody in the country knew what to do with the prisoners of war. The family where the prisoner of war Balysh living liked him so much that a young Russian widow, Pelagea (my great-grandmother), was given in marriage to him.
They liked this prisoner of war for his industry and decency. His surname Balysh was changed into Balyshev and his name Iohan into the name Ivan. He spoke Ukrainian as well as German. Balysh had five children in Kazakhstan one of whom is my loved grandfather. Iohan Balysh died soon. His nationality and his native country remained a secret to his family. Only by this time our family began to look for information about him.
In archives we succeeded in establishing that a huge amount of German and Austria-Hungarian prisoners of war arrived in Kazakhstan. They all were of different nationalities: Poles, Jews, Germans, Hungarians and others.
Genealogical forums on the Internet and digitized information from the newspapers from the World War I helped us to find information on my great-grandfather.
On the Internet we found lists of the wounded, died and captive soldiers of the Austria-Hungarian Army during the World War I. These are “Casualty lists” of the Austria-Hungarian Army.
Such “Casualty lists” were issued by War Office in Vienna. They came out periodically from the beginning of October 1914 to the end of 1918. In the newspaper about losses from December 28, 1915 we found a recording about our prisoner of war.
From this recording we knew that he was from Lvov region, the Ukraine. Now it was clear why he spoke and wrote Ukrainian.
This area used to be called Galicia. Before the World War I Galicia was a part of The Austria-Hungarian Empire.
Austria-Hungary was the third biggest state in Europe (after The Russian and German Empires). In 1910 it had a population of over 49 Million. There was a big diversity of nationalities in Austria-Hungary: Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croatians, Poles, Ukrainians, Romanians, Slovenes and others.
(Map of Galicia, which was transferred to Poland after the agreement on the end of World War II.)
My great-grandfather thereby was called up for the Austria-Hungarian Army as an Austrian citizen and had to be at war.
Why didn’t my great-grandfather return to his native country after the war?
It is known that later authorities allowed the prisoners of war to leave for home.
Everything what had happened to this man, his captivity was dramatically intertwined not only with the history of the World War I, but also with its results. At the end of the World War I after the break-up of Austria-Hungary his native country Galicia moved to Poland. Many people escaped in other countries.
My great-grandfather never saw his native country again. There was just nowhere to go and return. What a tragedy! On the territory of his country there was a brutal war.
(Russian soldiers in German captivity.)
During the World War I about 8 Million people became prisoners of war. Only the German Army captured nearly 2,5 Million. The Russian Army captured about three Million prisoners of war. In Russia, prisoners of war suffered from hunger. A huge amount of prisoners
taken by the Russian Army died.
In my family I saw the World War I both from the Austria-Hungarian side and from the Russian side.
On the one hand this is a history of my great-grandfather Balysh who being an Austria-Hungarian soldier was captured by the Russians and found himself in Kazakhstan. On the other hand my great-grandfather on my mother’s side Khlyschev Nikita Ivanovich who was a soldier in the Russian Army during the World War I. He also as my great-grandfather Balysh was captured but by the German troops. Being in German captivity he was working, too but unlike Balysh he could return to his native country – to Russia from German captivity.
What a coincidence! My great-grandfathers Iohan Balysh and Nikita Khlyschev may have fought each other and shot each other on one front.
My great-grandfathers survived in terrible times. They could be killed in the war, die by transportation to captivity, fall ill and die of bad food and hard work in captivity.
I began to think about this and saw the scene of this war before me. I saw people with their sufferings and troubles. I looked through some photos of prisoners of war on the Internet. I saw this war from the Russian and German sides.
On the one hand – my Austria-Hungarian great-grandfather Iohan Balysh .
This picture of my great-grandfather did not survive Balysh. But it could look something like this. This is a photo of his son – my own grandfather Balysheva Victor in his youth. According to witnesses, they are very similar.
On the other hand – my Russian great-grandfather Khlyschev Nikita.
Photo of my great-great-grandfather Russian Hlyscheva Nikity in adulthood.
Both are exhausted and captured. And both are my ancestors.
could not be here without each of them. These are soldiers of that terrible war that is also called in the world the Great War. They are ones of the common people. These are simple men who are grain growers from century to century in peacetime but soldiers in war-time.
They did not only survive but also grew many children due to intertwined fates and in spite of brutal time.
(This is my Russian great-grandfather Nikita hugs his great daughter and a strong arm – my dear and beloved Russian grandmother Luda. She is in the photo – a little girl.)
Having learned the history of my great-grandfathers I understood how important to know the history of your family members because this is always a part of the history of your Motherland and the World.
Note: Some footage in the public domain and are taken from the website: