Against the Current

Against the Current: The Memoirs of Boris Ragula, MD

Inge Sanmiya
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Against the Current
    Book Description:

    Against the Current offers a personal account of the plight of European refugees and the importance of immigrants to Canada's post-war growth. Ragula's insights into the complicated nature of identity in central Europe shows how "ordinary people" negotiate the complex, often contradictory claims of national, ethnic, religious, and geographic loyalties. His memoir provides a personal perspective on some of the major events of the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7318-5
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Boris Ragula
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Charles A. Ruud

    There are many improbable life stories still to be told by the men and women who, about six decades ago, survived World War II and clawed their way to safety out of the rubble of warfare and created for themselves new lives.

    The author of this book is the late Dr Boris Ragula, a retired medical practitioner from London, Ontario. Dr Ragula was born in the territory that is now Belarus. At that time, Belarus was a part of Poland, and that made him a Polish citizen, but in 1939, Poland disappeared. The Belarusians were caught between two rapacious powers...

  5. Editor’s Note
    (pp. xiii-2)
    Inge Sanmiya
  6. Illustrations
    (pp. 3-6)
  7. 1 My Beginnings
    (pp. 7-39)

    In this book I will describe how I grew up, struggled, and survived in a country that remains largely misunderstood or overlooked in the annals of European cultural and regional history. In recounting my memories I have perhaps unintentionally distorted some events or circumstances that shaped my ideas and ideals, my hopes and my fears. Nonetheless, they are my memories, and they remind me that I made choices to live my life on my own terms. I also admit to an indulgence in nostalgic reverie, for I am eighty-three years old; yet much of what I experienced remains vibrant and...

  8. 2 Freedom?
    (pp. 40-58)

    We walked on, and at dawn we came to a farm. Our uneasy knock on the farmhouse door was answered by a terrified man who asked us what we wanted. When we briefly described our escape from the German POW camp and our long homeward trek, the farmer recoiled as if we were lepers. “You idiots!” he shouted. “Go back and return with the Germans to liberate us!” He raged on about the oppressive conditions imposed by the Soviet regime. Then, panic creeping into his voice, he demanded that we leave and forget that we had ever come to his...

  9. 3 Liberation?
    (pp. 59-72)

    On my long journey home I had little difficulty finding food and lodging. When people learned that I had escaped from a Soviet prison, they generously opened their homes to me, and many called me a hero. Almost every family I met along the way told me stories of how the Soviets had massacred civilians, deported people, and confiscated property, all in the name of Communism, but thoughts of my own family, especially my mother, remained uppermost in my mind.

    Finally I reached the outskirts of the town of Naliboki, part of the Polish territory. Local police, who were under...

  10. 4 The Eskadron
    (pp. 73-99)

    By the early autumn of 1943 the Germans knew that they needed the support of the local population to deal with the escalating attacks of the Red Guerrillas. Commissar Traub called the mayors of Lubcza, Dyatlovo, Kareliczy, and Navahrudak to a meeting to “discuss the political situation.” All those assembled in the German administration building in Navahrudak looked uncomfortable. When no one responded to his request for suggestions, Traub found himself in the awkward position of consulting my uncle Bazyl. Rather than show false deference to the occupying authorities, my uncle admonished Traub for not asking such questions in 1941....

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. 100-102)
  12. 5 Refugees in the West
    (pp. 103-111)

    It was 5 May 1945, and suddenly everything was still. There were no booming guns, no droning bombers overhead. At last the sounds war were silenced. Germany had surrendered to the Allies, and hundreds of thousands of people were trying to rebuild their lives.

    A number of historians have examined the plight of the five million Soviets living in liberated Germany in the early post-war years.¹ Many of these refugees had fled their homeland during the war in order to escape persecution from the Red Army, and they ended up in German labour camps. Whatever their rank or status, they...

  13. Illustrations
    (pp. 112-116)
  14. 6 Early Days in London, Ontario
    (pp. 117-131)

    We arrived in Toronto in December 1954. Friends had given me the address of the Belarusian Canadian Alliance, which had its offices on Dundas Street, so we hailed a taxi and made our way there. Alex Hrychuk, the president of the organization, welcomed us and helped us find temporary living quarters. Once I had settled Ludmila and the children, I set out for London. My internship was scheduled to begin on 23 December, and I wanted to see the medical director at St Joseph’s Hospital without delay. It came as a great surprise to me that the director did not...

  15. 7 Community Service Far and Wide
    (pp. 132-146)

    Much of my involvement with preventative medicine programs came about through my interactions with patients in my practice. One day I attended a female patient who was recovering from a heart attack. Nursing staff had just removed her from an oxygen tent, and I stood by her hospital bed anxious to know how she was feeling. I was a smoker at the time, and I lit up as I spoke with her. She sat up and watched me inhale the tobacco smoke, and then she asked me for a cigarette. Outraged, I started to berate the woman for attempting to...

  16. Illustrations
    (pp. 147-149)
  17. 8 I Believe in Miracles
    (pp. 150-160)

    I have always been a strong advocate of a healthy lifestyle. I made some mistakes, of course - like smoking cigarettes when I was younger - but for the most part I can truthfully say that I have always taken care of myself. As a prisoner of war I devised strategies, such as playing chess with myself and doing exercises, to maintain my psychological and physical health. However, as I approached middle age I had to juggle a busy medical practice and a thriving family, and finding the time to maintain physical fitness was a challenge. I decided to set...

  18. Ilustrations
    (pp. 161-166)
  19. Epilogue
    (pp. 167-172)
    Inge Sanmiya

    Eastern Europeans and others saw their idealistic aspirations to maintain territorial integrity, cultural identity, and religious and linguistic self-determination trampled by the forces of German Nazism and Soviet totalitarianism. Stalin’s reign of terror and World War II created political and social upheaval in Belarus and elsewhere in Europe. Through his stories Boris Ragula offers us a personal perspective of these important events.

    Perhaps better than most people, Boris accepts the limits of mortal time. One cannot help but marvel at the fact that he survived a German POW camp, a NKVD death camp, and torture; he found love, he fought...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 173-180)
  21. Suggested Further Reading
    (pp. 181-182)
  22. Index
    (pp. 183-185)