"a young man crossed himself. A West Ukranian, that meant…"

Orthodox sign of the cross
Creative Commons AttributionOrthodox sign of the cross - Credit: adriatikus
In 1939 the Eastern European region of Galicia (not to be confused with the autonomous region of Spain), including Western Ukraine, became part of the Soviet Union. Having never previously been a part of the Russian Empire, the population belonged not to the Russian Orthodox Church but to the Eastern Rite Catholic church. Although both branches of Christianity advocate making the sign of the cross, the Orthodox practice varies slightly from the Catholic open right palm, as illustrated in the image. Shukhov therefore recognised the new prisoner as a West Ukrainian due to the way he crossed himself.