The story of one exhibit: Oleksii Voblyi’s wedding towel

3 October 2023

“They fed us at school: they cooked, and the teacher himself divided bread with a thread. At this time, many families had nothing to eat. People were dying like flies. The children were very exhausted, they could not walk home from school by themselves. As older students, teacher Voblyi took us to dig graves, and then they were transferred on the sackcloth and buried, and we were returning back for a long time, because we did not have the strength to go back. The teacher wrote on the graves, but later there was no one to process the graves because the whole family was dying,” Olha Yosypivna Balahura recalled about the Holodomor experienced in the village of Piskoshyne, Zaporizhzhia region. She is one of the students of the Piskoshyne school who survived the Holodomor thanks to teacher Oleksii Voblyi.

The story of the Holodomor is not only the story of the suffering that our people suffered unjustly. These are numerous stories of mercy, salvation and self-sacrifice, which we still continue to learn about even now, years later.

Oleksii Voblyi was a priest in his native Poltava region, but with the arrival of the Soviets, he was forced to “retrain” — he first ran an orphanage and then became a teacher.

In the 1930s, fleeing from persecution by the Soviet authorities, the Voblyi family settled in the village of Piskoshyne in the Veseliv district of the Zaporizhzhia region. There, according to the old residents, Oleksii personally collected stones from the destroyed church and built a school with them. Later, it became the cultural centre of the entire village: it was both a club and a theatre, Voblyi himself was not only a school director and a teacher but also managed an amateur theatre and a folk choir.

During the Holodomor, Oleksii Voblyi set up a canteen at the school with his own efforts, where his wife Maria cooked food for village schoolchildren from her personal supplies. The teacher also took care of the school of orphans whose parents died of hunger. And under the guise of “open lessons in nature,” he and his children secretly collected the remains of ears of grain in the field. Thanks to the teacher, not a single child in Piskoshyne died during the Holodomor.

At the height of repression, Oleksii Voblyi was summoned to Melitopol for questioning several times. After another interrogation in the spring of 1937, he did not return home alive.

Oleksii Voblyi’s name is included in the National Book of Memory “Humanity in Inhuman Times. Philanthropists during the Holodomor”.

The true story of his grandfather was learned by his grandson Oleksii Voblyi-Junior already at a mature age. This prompted him to do a more detailed study of his own genealogy. He gave his grandfather’s photos, library, and personal belongings to our museum so that his story would be preserved and become more widely known to the public.

Among the rarities given is his grandfather and grandmother’s wedding towel. This towel was embroidered approximately in 1920-1924 by Oleksii’s mother as a gift to her son for his wedding with Maria. The sacrament took place in the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin in the village of Yanovshchyna in the Poltava region.

Today, the patterns and lace of this hundred-year-old towel tell a touching family story, which you can see in the exposition of our exhibition “The Things that cannot be thrown away”.

The exhibition will last until October 30.

Meanwhile, the history of Piskoshyne continues to be written in blood: the village is under the occupation of the Russian military…