Stories of the perished

The highest percentage of injuries and mortality from infectious diseases and exhaustion was observed among the Ostarbeiters. Most people died from tuberculosis, cardiovascular deficiency, tabes, industrial injuries, and typhoid. Valentyna Radchenko was killed in an explosion at a powder plant in Lichtenau. This is what her friend Maria Holina wrote to her parents in Shostka. “As soon as we got stuck behind the bars, everyone lost all the joy and became boring and harsh. As much as Valya was fun at home, that much she became sad here. How I tried to assure her, how much I tried to cheer her up, nothing worked. She always said to me, “We will never get out of here!” On 25/V-43 dear Valyusha did not return from her shift. On 29/V they were buried. Her fate was very cruel because she died on Tuesday, but on Friday she was supposed to be working in my village because I kept saying that she was my sister. Now they are bombing us heavily, it is very difficult to think about returning home.”

Maria Kovalenko also died in 1944 at another military plant in Güssen, which belonged to a branch of the Dynamit Köln AG near Magdeburg. A photo of Maria was saved by her sister Olena. Both sisters were born in Shostka. Olena returned there after the war and spent the rest of her life in her hometown.

The exposition also presents death certificates of the six men who worked at the Eibia GmbH powder factory located between the villages of Stäberberg and Libanau. The document says that these people were prisoners at a labor camp in Libenau where they were sent apparently for some minor wrongdoing or misconduct.

Workers of the Eibia GmbH powder factory from the Shostka region reported the deaths of their fellow villagers in their letters. Ivan Troyan wrote to his girlfriend Tanya Zhovtonozhko in the village of Lushniki, “We party here like at Garpyna’s, even better, only it’s bad that there are no guys: Prischiny, M. Khochenkov died along with others.” In a letter to her parents in the village of Lushniki, Natalia Andrushchenko also writes about the death of people from her home village in the Shtaerberg camp, “We all are still alive, only Tsarganiv Mishka died, Grisha Gochenkov, uncle Mitra Ulyana died.

Such a high mortality rate in this camp was due to the poor conditions of life of its forced workers and the dangerous production of gunpowder. Over 2,500 women and men were killed at that enterprise during the war.