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An Indian Bicycle and the Nazi Occupation

January 10, 2012

I cannot resist the opportunity to present one more letter written to the Gebeitskommissariat in Lut’sk during the war that I found over here in Ukraine. For the first installment of “Dear Gebeitskommissar…” see here. Readers of the blog will know my endless desire to link a favorite hobby, cycling, to my scholarly interests in the second world war, as evidenced here and here, so this one should come as no surprise.

One, Liudmila Valenta, age 23, resident of the village Banasivka in Luts’k raion, wrote to the Gebietskommissar on July 6, 1942. The matter: her bicycle. As we know from my other entry on the diary of a young boy in Kremenets’, the Nazi administration forced the residents to register and turn over their bicycles to the authorities much to the consternation of Ukraine’s inhabitants.

Ms. Valenta was forced to turn over her “Indian” brand bicycle (nr. 99283) to the police on June 29, 1942. The problem was she taught at a “volkschule” (letter is in German) located 2km from her home. She also needed to travel to Luts’k  to the head Schulabteilung (School Dept.) once a week as well.

Given her predicament, writing a letter was all she could do and then hope for the best. She wrote something I think most cyclists can agree with — even those of us not living through the Nazi occupation: “I cannot attend to these matters as well, nor as quickly as I can with my bicycle.” She ended with, “Please allow me an exception [and to keep my bike].” Whether or not that happened, is unknown, but I’d like to picture her taking many safe travels to and from school on her Indian bicycle along the bumpy Volhynian roads.

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