Elvira (Vira) Gutsalo
Elvira (Vira) Gutsalo

Interview recorded:

Kyiv, Ukraive
08.09.2015

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On March 8, 1945 – was born in Germany, 35 miles from Rhine. At the age of three months came back to Kyiv with her mom. She went to school in Siniava, Kyiv region. In 1957 she moved to Stalino (Donetsk) with her uncle Vasyl and her aunt Olha and continued going to school there. In 1962 – started working at Makiyivka Glassworks. After 5 years she got married to Volodymyr Gutsalo. 1967 her daughter Svitlana and son Andriy were born.

Like almost every young person those days, my mom was taken in 1943 from Kyiv to Germany. She was only 19 years old back then. They also took her sister with them. My mother’s sister, that is my aunt, undermined boards in the cattle truck and leapt off the train in Koziatyn (Kyiv region). In such a way my aunt was saved from the German army. My mom was afraid to jump off the train, so that she stayed in there.

Firstly, she was brought to the city in the German Democratic Republic, where everyone was from Ukraine. Together with other young women she was relegated to a house owner in the Federal Republic of Germany.

They had to work really hard there. The owner of the house enforced them to carry sand and cement, which was probably for some construction purposes. If they were overtired and couldn’t work, he threatened to send them to the concentration camp. Once my mom couldn’t carry something and fell down, he sent her to the factory. She stayed few months there. One day another owner came to the factory and chose some workers to help out in his house. His name was Mantz. Among many other young women and men, who were there, he chose my mom. One of his sons was at war and the other was a small boy. His daughter, named Elvira, was 18 or 19 years old. Thus, my mom stayed in their house. The house owner and his wife did really much good for all those people.

My mom and the house owner’s daughter became really good friends. Despite the fact that she was a simple worker and the other girl belonged to the owner’s family. My mom met my future dad Nikolay Lukianenko there. They worked in the field that is they weeded the field lands. Men cleaned the place, where domestic animals were kept; women milked the cows and cooked. There my parents fell in love with each other and thus on the 8th of March, 1945, I was born from this love. The housewife was a very kind person. While my mom was working, I was lying in a stroller. IN the meanwhile the housewife was feeding me and looking after me. My mom was really the lucky one those days.

In 1945 the Federal Republic of Germany came under the control of the US Army and the German Democratic Republic under that of USSR. On the 9th of May the US soldiers came to the countryside and liberated firstly the prisoners of war there. My father was one of them. They left Germany with songs under the flag of USSR, but my mom stayed there till August.

Then my mom came to Kyiv. Where she lived, lived also her sister, but she was sent to another city. The housewife asked her to stay. She said, “What are you going to do in a destroyed Kyiv? Maybe your sister and brother are also gone. You’re alone with your child. Her German friend, the housewife’s daughter, also persuaded her to stay in Germany. In honour of this woman my mom gave me the name “Elvira”. Later on my mom was afraid that Elvira is a German name and it’s prohibited. Everyone was scared because of the fact that the family once stayed in Germany. That’s why she christened me as Vera [Ukrainian: “Vira”].

Where was your mom before the 1943?

She was in Kyiv and worked for a Jewish family as a nanny. She looked after kids and cleaned the house. At that time her sister Olga was working at a factory, their brother wasn’t there. He lived in Kirovohrad region (Ukraine).

So your mom worked as a nanny in a Jewish family. And what happened when the German Army started shooting Jewish people in Babi Yar?

When the shooting started, my aunt Olha stayed also in a Jewish family. They told her to pack the most expensive things. The house owner asked her to help them out as a worker. My aunt helped them to carry their stuffs to Babi Yar. When she saw that German Army was shooting all the Jews, she ran to the translator and started explaining that she’s not Jewish (my aunt really looked like them). She said that she’s Ukrainian and comes from Chernihiv region in Ukraine. The translator said it to the officer while showing him the passport of hers.

Did they set her free?

The officer called her up, turned her around and kicked her ass. She flew 3 meters away from there. All her body was covered with bruises. But still she was happy to stay alive.

My uncle Vasiliy, my mom’s brother, and aunt Olha – both participated in the reconstruction of Donbas.

Was he at war?

Yes, he was at war. He was wounded and once even captured there. To run away from captivity, he found the toilet of German officers and jumped into the shit, so that, when officers came, he completely immersed in it. When they left, he took a breath. He sat there till night. But he didn’t know if his sisters were alive. After the war was over, he went to Donbas, worked in the mine and took my aunt Olha with him. Then my mom also came to Donbas (Stalino), so that all our family could live together.