Archive of World War II letters

Guide to the digital collection of letters

Letters from the fronts of World War II are documents of great emotional power. Envelope letters, triangle letters, and front postcards still maintain a frightening sensation of war. Old paper, bleak ink… And an obligatory stamp proving the examination of military censorship. Some letters contain lines or even whole paragraphs crossed out with black paint; in a censor’s view, they included classified information: data about the location and movement of the troops, messages about casualties, losses, or retreats. Bitter truth regarding hardships of the front life of Soviet soldiers was also not meant to be known to their relatives at the rear. However, an attentive reader can notice what the censor intended to cross out and what the front soldiers could not write about between the lines

The majority of front letters were written in plain language: the fighters mostly told about their routine lives, avoiding “forbidden” details. Yet among the authors, there were highly educated individuals and representatives of creative professions. Their letters are often distinct due to the refined literary style and deep content. For instance, the writer Matvii Talalaievsky, who was a military correspondent during the war,  wrote his wife and daughter almost daily not only about mundane events but also his feelings and impressions from encounters with various people, and shared his artistic plans. Also worthy of attention are front letters of the film director Isaak Shmaruk to his wife and son, in which love confessions full of incredible tenderness and lyricism intertwine with the accurate observations of reality, descriptions of frontline daily life, and impressions of life in European cities he happened to see.

Behind every front letter from the Center’s collection, there is a human fate, joyful and tragic. Some were lucky to survive the war, like Mavii Talalaievsky and Isaak Shmaruk, whereas the young poet Fridrikh Traube and his twin brother Rafail did not.

Equally interesting are the letters of people who were in the rear, mostly in evacuation. Their letters (at first sight, of merely mundane type) contain information about the life of people in rear regions, and psychology of the “small” Soviet person. A small number of letters from the Nazi-occupied territories have also been preserved. For example, especially informative are the letters of Z. Kuchevsky, written in Kyiv during the Nazi rule.

Correspondence of the war years has long become not only a private family matter but also a part of history. Turning to epistolary sources, one can research little-known aspects of World War II and look at the events of the time through the eyes of immediate witnesses and participants. The Center’s collection of front letters contains unique material for historians, sociologists, psychologists, researchers of local history, and for everyone interested in the topics of war, the Holocaust and the fate of the Jewish people.

The collection of the Center includes more than 2,200 letters from the World War II period, which are present in family and writers’ archives as well as the archive of the painter Zinovii Tolkachov. The greatest part of these letters are original, yet printed copies are also present since not all descendants of front soldiers agreed to part with the letters, which had become heirlooms.

Front letters from the family archives

  1. Averbukh. Letters from 1941, 20 units of storage.
  2. Ahuf. Letters from 1942–1945, 32 units of storage.
  3. Brahynsky. Letters and postcards from 1941–1942, 39 units of storage.
  4. Bohoslavska. Letters from the war period with the stamps of military censorship, 11 units of storage. 

The Horodetsky family. Letters and a postcard from 1941, 6 units of storage.

The Hrosser family. Letters from 1941–1943, 6 units of storage.

  1. Hurevych. Letters from and postcards from 1941 – 1944 – 83 units of storage.
  2. Zaslavsky. Letters from 1942–1944, 17 units of storage.
  3. Kahan. Letters from 1941, 7 units of storage.
  4. Korol. Front letters and postcards, 135 units of storage.

The Kniazhytsky family. Letters from occupied Kyiv, 3 units of storage.

  1. Kotelchuk. Front letters from 1942–1943, 86 units of storage. 
  2. Kotliarov. Front letters and postcards, 17 units of storage.

The Kocherovsky-Maiorchuk family. Front letters and postcards, 47 units of storage.

  1. Kuchevsky. Letters from occupied Kyiv, 4 units of storage.
  2. Krupnyk. Front letters and photographs, 5 units of storage.
  3. Lobachevsky. Letters from 1945–1946, 3 units of storage.
  4. Nibulsky. Postcards from 1941, 4 units of storage.
  5. Niron (archive of School No. 77). Front letters, 9 units of storage.
  6. Piliavsky. Postcards and front letters from 1941, 8 units of storage.

The Poberezhskys (family). Postcard from 1944, 1 unit of storage.

  1. Polisky. Letters from 1942–1943, 5 units of storage.

Rozenfeld. Front letters from 1941–1944, 60 units of storage.

  1. Syhal. Front triangle letters from 1941–1944, 23 units of storage.
  2. Skliar. Front letters from 1943–1945, 20 units of storage.
  3. Skliarenko. Letters from the war period, 6 units of storage.
  4. Traube. Front letters from 1941–1943, 47 units of storage. 

The Ulik-Papish family. Letters from the war period, 197 units of storage.

The Ushomyrsky family. Front triangle letters, 60 units of storage.

  1. Filanovsky. Letters from 1944–1945, 4 units of storage.
  2. Kharaz. Letters from 1941–1943, 88 units of storage.
  3. Tsypin. Front letters from 1941–1942, 55 units of storage. 
  4. Shafir. Front letters, postcards, and telegrams from 1941–1942, 76 units of storage.

The Shmaruk-Tsybulnyk family. Front letters from 1941–1945, 224 units of storage.

  1. Yahupolsky. Front letters from 1942–1943, 7 units of storage.

Front Letters of the Unknown. 9 units of storage.


Letters from the collection of A. Drozdovsky

These are printed copies of front letters from 1941–1945: letters from the artist of an army ensemble L. Bershtein to his parents; letters of Y. Berman to his wife M. Brodska; letters of other front soldiers (N. Shwartsman, A. Reznik, A. Hertsen, Y. Kypal, V. Abramson). Overall, there are 126 units of storage.


Front letters from the writers’ archives

  • I. Falikman. Front letters, 2 units of storage
  • M. Talalaievsky. Letters, telegrams, and postcards from 1941–1945, 632 units of storage


Letters from the archive of the painter Z. Tolkachov

38 units of storage.