Of all the atrocities Nazis committed prior to and during World War II, one could not forget that the USSR also committed awful crimes. In fact, between 23 August 1939 and 22 June 1941, Germany and the USSR were partners via the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
After signing the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in 1939, the USSR occupied Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, and the Hertza region in 1940. Thus, overnight, approximately three million displaced Romanians found themselves in foreign territory; where their traditions, origins, culture, and religion they practised, were not accepted.
Many arrested Romanians from Bukovina were killed or deported; churches were closed; properties confiscated; and many families began to cross the new border and went to Romania.
In January 1941, the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) issued rumours that people would be allowed to cross the border. As a result of this information, on 1 April 1941, on Easter day, a large group of people from several villages in the Siret Valley headed to the Soviet-Romanian border carrying a white flag and religious insignia (icons, church flags, and crosses).
Approximately 2,000 to 3,000 unarmed civilians walked together towards the new Soviet-Romanian border. The Soviet border guards attempted to turn back the group several times, issuing a final verbal warning and firing shots in the air when the people arrived at Varnystia, near the border. After the convoy pressed on, the border guards began to shoot, reportedly after a few members fired. According to the Soviet official report, casualty figures amounted to 44 people (17 from Pătrăuții de Jos, 12 from Trestiana, five each from Cupca and Suceveni, three from Pătrăuții de Sus, two from Oprișeni), and although the numbers were reportedly higher according to survivor testimonies. Partial listings of victims later identified some of them. Most of them were cut by bullets and thrown into mass graves, some buried alive. The pursued were re-captured, tortured, and then deported. Today, Fântâna Albă (now Stary Vovchynets or Bila Krinicya) location is in the territory of Ukraine.
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