Interview recorded:Rososha village, Vinnytsia oblast, Ukraine
About the fate of the other children:
Twins were the youngest. They died in half a year after birth. 3-year-old Kolya and 11-year-old Liuda died of diphtheria.
Evdokia was sent to a concentration camp in Stuttgart. She died of meningitis a few days before the camp was liberated.
Mitya grew up and moved to Khabarovsk (Russia), died in older age 15 years ago. Ivan and Olga live very close to my grandmother.
Anna, a younger sister, my second grandma, lives with my grandmother in the house that served as the German headquarters.
Vira has one daughter (my mother), four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. She now lives with her sister Anna in the village of Rososha, Vinnitsia region.
Tell me about your childhood, please.
Yustyna and me slept on a skrynya next to a stove. We kept our clothes there and called it skrynya. At 4 am we heard an aircraft noise. Planes would buzz, throw bombs. The house remained intact even though it should have been a target. There was a garden in front of our and our neighbours’ (Bagriy’s family) houses. The bomb hit the garden. God’s will? Who knows…
The warhead was flying just above us. Through the window it flew over our heads and got stuck in the wall. We only realized it was stuck in the wall when we woke up with the noise of the plane. Can you imagine that noise? The sound of the explosion… The crater was immense, water started to fill it in. You could probably fit a house into that hole. When I think of it now, I really have no clue how we survived.
The warhead flew over us, hit the wall. We, Germans – everyone jumped to their feet. But what was the point? The window was blown out of the house, laying next to it, full of wires. I don’t know how it happened but the wires did not break. Well the bomb landed on the garden. A tree used to grow over there, that’s where it exploded reaching the groundwater. So we woke up alive, Germans alive… That was about it.
We didn’t know what kind of plane it was. Most likely it was a kukuruznyk (a type of a soviet plane). I think it was it because the plane dropped the bomb behind the Kuzmenchyk’s house while everyone was asleep and then quickly disappeared.
A soldier in a military uniform came to our house two days later. I think he was a Komsomolets (a male member of the former Soviet youth organization) as he had a pin. I remember him very well. Bagriyka, a granny, ran out screaming “Oh boy! Where are you going, Germans are in the house!”. The Germans noticed the scene, came out of the house and took the boy. “Partisan! Partisan! “- they were shouting. The way they tortured him… Bullet after the bullet… And then killed. Poor kid, he’d cry: “Mommy, mommy, daddy, mom!” He was so young, who knows how old he was… The age of a Komsomolets.
Germans killed him… The granny took the body. It was bent in a basement. The poor grandmother went there to take it out. Everyone was hiding in Paseka’s cellar and Yustyna had to help her. They took out the body and started thinking where they could bury it. They put him in that hole… He was crying so badly. I remembering that moment so well…
Our father was working with wood and had all sorts of wood working tools and machinery. Germans noticed them. Yustyna took the tools and hid them in a hole where we kept potatoes. Germans looked around and couldn’t find all the tools. They brought Yustyna to the middle of the yard, put a gun to her head and started questioning. Two young Germans sleeves-rolled-up. “Where did you hide it?” – one of them said in Russian. Well, he was supposed to be a German, but who knew who was who? The German officer kept threatening and Yustyna’s face was turning pale. “I’ll show you where things are.” – she said. “Bring everything here!” – replied the German officer. We went to the potato hall and took everything: smoothing planes, axes, quite a few things. Dad took very good care of all the tools. There was nothing he wouldn’t know how to do. He’d sew dresses, skirts, shoes, boots and even high heels. He was a wood expert, made a mill by himself. We kept using it even after the war. Thanks to those grindstones we had flour. Dad also hid rye and bread for us. In a kind of a barrel it was dug in the ground. When Germans retreated we had food as we could mill and grow rye.
Our childhood… Did we have one?
We wanted to eat, but there was nothing to eat. Our mother would bake bread, give us a slice… Thanks God we had it. So we ate bread and also a kind of balandychka (nutrient-poor tasteless soup). Mom cooked balanda because we had a cow. Germans milked the cow when they were around. Apart from that, we had beehives. Our dad was indeed unique. Germans wanted honey. I have missed the moment when they took a hive out of the house and bees froze. It was winter, quite cold outside. They took honey frames from two hives, got the honey, put it on the table and ate it all voraciously at once. Some of the beehives survived the war but later we had the new ones.
In about a day after the bomb hit our yard, Germans started the retreat. Soviets were approaching and Germans fled. When was it? I can’t remember… It should have been 1945.