Fate of forced laborers

The survival of forced laborers depended on where they were sent: to a military plant or to a village. One third of Ostarbeiters worked in agriculture, 45% worked in industry. In factories, Ostarbeiters were kept in special camps under strict guard. The exposition has a photograph showing an attempt by a German photographer to make a “collective portrait” of literally all of the occupants of the working camp at a large military enterprise in Salzwedel. This photo and other materials were submitted to the museum by Tetiana Konovalova (Bezugla).

Ostarbeiters were also isolated from Germans and other foreign workers and were paid symbolic wages. The standard of living of Ostarbeiters was low, while penalties were very severe, up to sending to a penal or a concentration camp. A guy from Obrazhievka, Stepan Sadovy, who worked at a powder plant in Bromberg, heard that his father was shot in July 1942 and vowed to revenge for his death. Together with his friend and fellow villager Ivan Varenyk, he began to organize small diversions and breakdowns, as well as to campaign. For this, Nazis sent both of them to a concentration camp. They went through Stuttgart and Buchenwald, they miraculously survived in the underground tunnels of Mittelbau-Dora, where in horrible conditions – without clear air or sunlight – prisoners manufactured the most advanced weapons of the Nazi Germany – the Fau-1 and Fau-2 missiles. Stepan Sadovy wrote about all of this in his memoirs.

Official statistics show that Ostarbeiters from the East had the highest percentage of women (51%) and the highest number of minors (almost 41% male and 60% female). Anna Tkach (Stepanenko) was deported at the age of 15 and friends Maria Pyschyk and Olexandra Verbitska were also just 15 when they were deported to Germany.

Anastasia Zaryazhko met her future husband, another forced laborer, Ivan Cis, in Berlin. Young people kept their sincere feelings not only during the war but carried them throughout their long married life.