Family stories
Olena Borzenko
Interview recorded: by Vysokyi, Kharkiv region, Ukraine 21.10.2017

Olena Borzenko

Olena Borzenko was born in the village of Vysokyi, Kharkiv region in 1953. She is the only child in her family. Her parents Mariia and Vitalii faced the WWII as an ostarbeiter and a soldier. After the War her parents were paralyzed so she had to take care of them for many years and bring up her children. She worked as an engineer at the chemical laboratory. Now she has two grandchildren. The tragedy of Yefremivka is similar to the tragedy of Khatyn in Belarus. Both during the times of the USSR and independent Ukraine nothing was known about who was in charge of this mass murder. The official reason was that “in the village partisans killed an important German”. The fact is that 453 inhabitants were killed and 233 were burnt alive. Witnesses of the tragedy mentioned: “We have a big grief in the village: they burnt everything: houses, buildings, they threw grenades into the cellars where women were hiding with children.”

I’m Borsenko Elena Vitalivna, I live in the village Vysokyi, Kharkiv oblast.

My parents faced war at a very young age.

My mother – Pashenova Maria Ivanovna was born in 1922.

My father – Tutko Vitalii Andreievych was born in 1925.

My father was at war from a very young age. He was liberating … He served at a tank unit and liberated Königsberg, where he got burnt in a tank. He was severely injured, with many scars, was taken to hospital and as he was completely burnt that was the end of his military career.

His ears, his face, eyes, he had scars almost everywhere.

He was recognized with the 3rd Class of the Order of Glory,  Medal for Bravery of USSR, Medal “For the Victory over Germany”, Medal “For the Defense of Leningrad” and the Order of Guards.

My mother as far as I know was in the labour camps.

But no one in the family talked about it.

We were told about the war only what was generally known in the society: that there was the war, we knew about its beginning and the end, we knew the number of casualties, we were told about the Defense of the Brest Fortress, the Battle of Stalingrad, about Khotyn, but never about Kharkiv, Efremivka where many people were killed and burnt in a church, we never heard about casualties in our town.

This year we decided to discover our roots: especially the fate of my mother, the time she spent in the camps.

I knew that if she didn’t have any numbers on her hand, she could not have been to a concentration camp.

How could we identify which concentration camp she was in? It was a puzzle for me.

Even though now I’m at the same age as my parents were when they died.

We agreed at a family meeting that we have to get to know about the life of my mother as much as possible.

So my children wrote a letter to Kharkiv’s archive and to a German one with the request about Pashenova Mariia Ivanivna, my mother and my children’s grand-mother. We were looking for the information about where she was, what she did, maybe there was someone who knew something.

We received an answer from the German archive.

We are very thankful to them for responding.

The request date is April 14, 2017

From this document we have learnt where she lived, where she was, in what city and for how long she was captured.

My mother was born in Efremivka, Kharkiv oblast. She lived at 54 Moskalevska Street. From April 9, 1942 till April 1945 she was made to work as an inspector at “Reichswerken AG Herman Goring” in the Watenstedt Abteilung Hauptwerkstatt. She lived in Watenstedt, Lager 23.

Of course our family didn’t know about it. Because the question “where was my mother” was a tabu.

Not only because she didn’t want to talk about it, but because this situation happened in every family.

The people after the war… They were disdained and wretched because of the fact they were in Germany. Though it was not their fault, they we forced to go there against their will.

My mother… she always considered herself to be Ukrainian, this is her picture. Even in 1943 in Germany she managed to find a Ukrainian national costume and take a picture in it.

Despite the fact that she was born in Ukraine, she had Russian roots.

 I want to talk more about history. My mother had a sister – Pashenova Motriona. She had a family: a husband and two children, Valechka 3 y.o. and Slavik 1.5 y.o. They lived in Kharkiv, during the war they moved to Efremivka, where their relatives lived.

My aunt Motriona –  my mother’s sister – was shot by Nazi soldiers in her house together with her children. Some people were burnt in a church. A memorial was built in Efremivka. We also knew nothing about my mother’s sister, like what was her surname after the marriage, we only knew that she had children. We had their photo. We didn’t know where she lived. We knew literally nothing but due to the investigation before May 9, we found out that in Efremivka, it’s a village near Likhachovo town, there is a memorial with the names of all killed or burnt alive in the church. We found out that their surname was Turlenko, they all are mentioned there. Valentina Turlenko is a daughter and Viacheslav is a little son, Motriona, her husband and his parents. Their names are written in the memorial of Efremivka. This is how we now understand the real meaning of the war and how much sorrow it brought to every family. When we don’t think about it, it looks like in a movie, to watch and to forget, but when you get into it, it is completely different.    

The interviews are given in the original language or a transliteration of it with preservation of national, regional and individual speech peculiarities.

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