Meeting at the Elbe: Lt. William Robertson (U.S. Army) and Lt. Alexander Silvashko (First Ukrainian Front) on April 25, 1945

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April 25, 1945, the day American troops and the troops of the First Ukrainian Front met at the Elbe River, near Torgau in Germany is known as the Elbe Day. The most iconic photo of that grand event portrays American 2nd Lt. William Robertson and Ukrainian Lt. Olexander Silvashko. O. Silvashko was born in the Cherkasy oblast of Ukraine and went to the front from there. He was wounded three times and once suffered a concussion. After the Elbe, he fought in Dresden and Prague. When he returned to Ukraine after the war, he discovered that there was no food there. Silvashko had to travel to Belarus to exchange some of his possessions for food and stayed there. He worked as a school teacher even after reaching his retirement age.

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John Steinbeck described the destruction Ukraine suffered during World War II: “Much of the destruction that has been brought on this people is because their land is rich and productive and many conquerors have coveted it. If the United States were completely destroyed from New York to Kansas, we would have about the area of destruction the Ukraine has. If six million people were killed, not counting soldiers, fifteen per cent of the population, you would have an idea of the casualties of the Ukraine. Counting soldiers, there would be many more, but six million out of forty-five million civilians have been killed. There are mines which will never be opened because the Germans threw thousands of bodies down into the shafts. Every piece of machinery in the Ukraine has been destroyed or removed, so that now, until more can be made, everything must be done by hand. Every stone and brick of the ruined city must be lifted and carried with the hands, for there are no bulldozers. And while they are rebuilding, the Ukrainians must produce food, for theirs is the great granary of the nation…”

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