Life stories of forced laborers

Biographies of several employees of the Eibia GmbH powder factory who originally came from the Shostka region were reconstructed with most details.

 

Pelageia Struk (Chubun) from the village of Ivot came to this military enterprise with the first group of Soviet workers. Her family had five children. During her recruitment to Germany, her oldest married sister Galina fled to their relatives’ village, while 18-year-old Pelagia was taken to the Reich on June 15, 1942. Life in the camp for Osterbeiters near the village of Steyerberg and work at the factory was difficult and exhausting. Pelagia worked 10 hours every day except Sundays. Her job was to cut powder. Workers received only one portion of food a day. Their daily diet consisted of beet soup, a slice of bread and margarine. No one was allowed out of the camp, but a photographer came and took photos at the factory. It was almost the only entertainment they had. To make his clients laugh, he began swearing in Russian. “Everyone laughs, and so do we. But there was no laughter in our hearts,” Pelageia said in an interview. It was especially difficult when sad news came from home. Pelageia learned of the March 10, 1943 punitive action of the German command in the village of Ivot from a letter from her father. “A whole stack of letters came accidentally all into our room. I grabbed the letter first. Our father writes: “Well, it was March 10. It was a sunny day, and bloody streams were running down the streets. Uncle Vasily was shot, grandmother died on March 5, the house was burned. From that street at the end of the village, they drove everyone into one room, poured gasoline, burned everyone alive.” About 390 people were killed that day. We cried so hard that the barrack was cracking with tears. Our brothers, our sons-in-law, our sisters – everyone caught was mowed down by machine guns.

https://shostkamuseum.com.ua/biografiyi/chubun-struk-pelageya/

Pelagia Chubun (Struk) (in the center) with their girlfriends at the Eibia GmbH powder factory camp. Steyerberg, 1942

Maria Dotsenko arrived at the Eibia GmbH powder factory that same summer. She was born in 1923 in the village of Obrazhiyivka. After seven years of rural school, she continued her education at the college, then worked as a laboratory assistant at the Shostka Film Factory No. 6 and later, at the Zorya printing house. At the Nazi powder factory, she worked at the powder-cutting press until May 1945.

When the Allies entered Germany in 1945, Maria and other Soviet citizens were transported from Steyerberg to Magdeburg, the Soviet occupation zone. From May to November 1945, she worked on the dismantling of a German military factory that was to be exported to the USSR. There, she met her future husband, who had also worked at the Eibia GmbH powder factory during the war. Both returned home, lived in the village Sobichevo and moved to Shostka in 1964.

Ivan Dudar arrived at the powder factory in Lower Saxony in October 1942. He was born in 1921 in the village of Klyshky. In June 1942, like many of his fellow villagers, he was sent to work in Germany. At that dangerous chemical plant, foreign workers were given no protective clothing and no safety rules were explained to them. In June 1944, Ivan accidentally burned his hands and feet with acid. He spent two weeks in the hospital. The wound did not heal for a long time, and the labor exchange transferred him as an assistant to the Gorman farmers in the nearby village of Vellie. This German family actually saved Ivan’s life. After the war, he returned to the labor camp where he and his fellow countrymen waited for several months to be sent home. Following a filtration check, he had to work at a cement plant in the Urals for a year. In 1946, Ivan Dudar finally returned to his homeland and continued his studies at the Krolevets Art College, then worked as an artist at the Krolevets Weaving Factory. Later, he became the chief artist of the enterprise. In 1949, Ivan married his fellow villager, Anna Susol. The couple has two sons, Victor and Peter, and daughter Lyudmila. The wound on his leg tormented Ivan throughout his life. And the name “traitor” always accompanied him because of his forced labor in Nazi Germany. Having become a recognized artist, a master of woven towels, he was awarded the title of Honored Artist of Ukraine. Due to his past, he was never allowed to leave the Soviet borders although his works were successfully exhibited abroad. In 2002, he for the first time visited Germany, the villages of Liebenau and Wellie, and laid flowers on the tomb of the Hormann couple.

More information about the life history of Ivan Dudar can be found in the materials of the exhibition “Ivan Dudar: the life path of the Ukrainian artist”

 

The exposition presents the work card of an employee of the Eibia GmbH powder factory, Volodymyr Korotkov. This document showed his place of work as an Ostarbeiter and gave permission to travel from the camp to the enterprise only. Volodymyr was born in 1922 in the village of Osov, Chernihiv region. His father was an active member of the Bolshevik Party, secretary of the village council, his mother was a housewife. The family had two younger sons, Ivan and Peter. In 1931, the family moved to Shostka. His father worked at Film factory No. 6 as chief of transportation. During the Nazi occupation, the Korotkov family was on “special account” as a Communist family. In August 1942, Volodymyr was deported to work in Germany. Later, his younger brother Peter was also deported but died on the way in an attempt to escape. Volodymyr got to the Eibia GmbH powder factory near the villages of Steyerberg and Libenau. From the very beginning, he started to do a lot of sabotage of the production process, destroying machines and tools. “I had to sabotage… How could I make powder to be used against my own [people]?! I was tormented [by this thought] a lot…” Korotkov was repeatedly punished, one time he received 25 blows with a rubber stick. Camp policemen, including his fellow countrymen, took part in the punishment. “Then policeman Zubchenko pulls me out of the crowd, the two of them stretch me along this bench, one of them sits on my outstretched hands and holds my head, and the other on my feet, while the “camp-Fuhrer” himself rolled up the sleeves of his fascist uniform and started beating me with his rubber stick, 25 blows as promised.” Volodymyr barely survived, was ill for a long time, and had hearing problems for the rest of his life. After the liberation of the camp by the British troops, from April 26 to June 12, 1945, he took part in the clearing of the territory of the remnants of the armed German formations as a member of the British-American troops. In June 1945, he was drafted into the Soviet Army, served in the tank repair unit until 1954. Due to health problems (the result of the camp beating), Korotkov was transferred to the reserve and given the 3rd group of disability. He returned to Shostka and worked at the Zirka plant until retirement.

On June 15, 1942, sisters Tetiana (born in 1922) and Pelageia (born in 1923) Osnach, along with Pelageia Struk and many young people from Ivot, were deported to Germany. Maria’s youngest sister (born in 1924) was able to escape the police and hide in the woods. The sisters got to work at the Eibia GmbH powder factory near the villages of Steyerberg and Liebenau. In 1943, Tetiana became ill with tuberculosis. In her last letter to sister Maria in Ivot in May 1943, she wrote, “I decided to write you, my white-headed sister. I can’t even describe how much I would like to see you. I would tell you a lot of things. Now, Masha, I have a much deeper knowledge of life… And it is now when I live one day at a time. I already wrote to you that I am not working at the moment, I have been on sick leave since May 3, 1943. I also told you what I am sick with. But don’t you worry too much about me over there. I’m so destined.”

At the time of liberation, her state of health no longer enabled her to return home. She pleaded with her sister Pelageia not to leave her abroad alone, “I want to die on my home doorstep.” In her last days, Tetiana was in the hospital for displaced persons in Bad Reburg. She died on July 2, 1945. In 2012, Martin Guze, researcher of the history of the powder factory from Liebenau, found Tetiana Osnach’s name, and later her grave, in the register of the Bad Reburg Rural Cemetery. Pelageia Osnach returned to Ivot at the end of 1945. Due to her detention in Germany, for a long time she was regularly summoned to the local NKVD office and questioned for suspected espionage. After graduating from the Shostka Technical College, Pelageia went to Kryvyi Rih, where she gave birth to her son Alexander. After 21 years, she returned to the Shostka region and died in the village of Voronizh in 2009. The youngest Osnach sister, Maria, who lived all her life in Ivot, died in 1976. Her daughter, Nadiya Kurilenko, is now the keeper of the Osnach family memory. She helped reconstruct this story of the sisters’ lives.