Kriviy Rih, Ukraine

I was born in Kovarivka village, which used to be in the Kolarivka district, in the Zaporizhzhya region. I went to school when I was eight years old, which was a common primary school starting age at that time. I enjoyed school and had excellent marks. My father was working in a local union of consumer organizations in Kolarivka. When Nogaysk (modern Primorsk) became a new administrative center for the district, my father took the whole family there. I was about to start my fourth year at school when the German Army attacked us.

My dad was a driver and a car mechanic, so when the Nazis were approaching Nogaysk, he was told to take important documents elsewhere so they wouldn't fall into German hands. They loaded the cars with all the important papers and equipment. And using his position, my father managed to spare some space in the last car for us and our neighbors. We didn't have time to take anything of our belongings - no clothes, nothing.

On the next day, early in the morning, my mother with that other woman, a neighbor, walked back to Nogaysk to get some clothes. They covered 20 kilometers on foot and took everything they could carry. On their way back they were caught by Germans on motorbikes right in the middle of some field. They scattered all the clothing and belongings about shouting, "Russo soldat?" The women got scared out of their wits, but the Germans saw that there was nothing in their bundles but children's shoes, clothes and some other household things. So they let everything lying about the ground and their chief said something which sounded like an order, and they all got on their bikes and sped off.

When my father came with the last car to the river crossing - we needed to cross Dnieper - it turned out that they transported only military equipment and soldiers to the opposite bank and refused to spend precious time on refugees and civilian cars. And hardly had they transported our troops and the Germans appeared. My father suggested hiding our cars in a ditch. The Germans didn't notice us, so we waited until they went away before we could return to our homes.

During all this time, my grandmother remained in our old house in Kovarivka. There was a big cellar in that house where my great grandfather used to store homemade wine. He used to have vineyards and made his own wine. So they gathered all the local children in that cellar, which seemed to be a safe place. In the morning, the Germans came to the village riding their motorbikes, and started to bang loudly on the doors shouting, "Russo soldat!" My grandmother unlocked the door and came out to meet them. With a machinegun against her back, she showed them the house. The Germans rummaged around the place but found nothing suspicious.

Besides the children in the cellar, my grandmother also had a young Jewish girl hidden in the attic. It happened so that she hadn't manage to leave the village with the rest of her family who used to work as doctors in our village. So my grandmother had her hidden in a pile of straw in the attic. There was no firm decking in the ceiling - just wooden beams and some reed between them, the one you couldn't step on, of course. So the Germans just walked a little on those beams but never reached that corner where that Jewish girl was hiding. My grandmother was really worried about her and did her best to help her to go to some place safe.

The Germans went from house to house looking for Russian soldiers, but found nobody. There was a whole swarm of those motorbikes. Just like bees.

Then the Germans started to gather the local people. We had our own tractor repair station in our village. People from all over the area used to bring their tractors, sowing machines and other equipment so that we could repair them. The Germans told us to gather all the people who knew a thing or two about machines. So we gathered six people together, with four who were from our street, and they began to work at the station. Among them there was an elderly Russian man named Egor. He and another neighbor often used to come by our place for tea. Once I heard him say that it was high time to start doing something. By something he meant small diversions against the Germans. For example, to add some sand to tank engines. Soon one tank failed to reach its destination, then another, then a third one; and before too long the Germans smelled a rat. They took them - Egor, my dad, our neighbor and one more man - to prison in Berdyansk.

It was a big two-storey building at the foot of the central hill. They started to interrogate them. You know how they did it: with shouting, beating, all sorts of things. Egor tried to protect his colleagues and took the whole blame upon himself. After all, my father and our neighbor had five kids each. They spent a long time in prison. As there was no transport to Berdyansk, my mom used to go there on foot to see them and bring something to eat. Eventually they released my father and our neighbor. As for Egor and that other man, we never knew their destiny. The only thing I know is that when our army was approaching and the Germans started to retreat, they set the prison on fire. People shouted for help behind the bars, but in vain. It's impossible to describe.

Then there was the so-called labor service. People were sent in batches to Guryev to work at the plants. My father was sent there as well, as he was a mechanic. So he worked there for five years transporting coal. It was hard work, and when he finally returned home, he found us almost dead with starvation. There was a terrible famine during those years, with no harvest in the fields. People literally had to crawl in the grass in search for something to eat. So when my dad returned home, he borrowed a bicycle and rode all the way to the coast, which wasn't very far away after all. He brought a whole sack of small fish called sprat and he told our mother to do whatever she could with it. You know: dry or fry it. In order to feed the kids.

He also used to go to his younger brother who lived forty kilometers away from our village. Uncle Vanya worked as a storekeeper and he managed to provide us with some food: a little bit of grain or a bottle of oil. Looking at these hardships my father decided to go to Berdyansk and find a job there. He found a job which was to wash some peculiar black sand on the coast of the Azov sea. I don't know what it was, probably uranium ore, because a small sack of this sand weighed as much as 50 kilos. He used to take this sand to Mariupol where they would dry it and send somewhere further.

There was a lack of equipment after the war, so my father was sent far away to Russia to some big car factory to get some cars. He and three other men went there by trains, but on the way back after they had finally received three cars, they were majorly delayed because of bad roads and rain. It took them a month to get through. That was in 1948.

Little by little life became better. We received some food rations from the state, and eventually our father took us to Berdyansk. My three brothers still live there. My forth brother was already dead. When in Berdyansk I used to do a lot of sports - athletics to be more precise. In 1953 I graduated from technical school with a degree in mechanics. And as I was a good student, I was allowed to choose my future place of work. So I chose Dnipropetrovsk, because there was good a train connection between Dnipropetrock and Berdyansk. All my fellow-students were sent to various places across the whole Soviet Union.

I worked for nine years in a tool-making workshop at the plant that produced metallurgical equipment. During the first six months I was learning from the foreman of that workshop and then I started to work as a manager of technical processes. It was hard work, but it was ok. Soon I got married and gave birth to a child. However, the living conditions were not very favorable. The plant could only provide a small 13-square-meter room. No wonder that I grabbed the opportunity to get transferred to Krivyi Rih to work there at the plant that repaired mining equipment. They gave flats to their workers! So I got that job in 1961 and in the same year I received this three-room flat, where I am still living.

I worked at that plant until my retirement in 1985. Then there was the time of Perestroyka, and my grand children were born. I tried to support them with anything I could. I have two daughters. They both have university degrees. One lives here in Krivyi Rih, and the other lives in Dolinskaya. She moved there to work at the newly established ore processing enterprise, although it doesn't function as well as it used to.

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