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Family Research and Militaria from WWII in Zhytomyr, Ukraine?

Article about: Hello, all! I recently had the opportunity to sit down with my ~80+yr old Oma. Sadly, she is losing her short-term memory. Luckily, her long-term memory is still rather sharp and I was able

  1. #1

    Default Family Research and Militaria from WWII in Zhytomyr, Ukraine?

    Hello, all!

    I recently had the opportunity to sit down with my ~80+yr old Oma. Sadly, she is losing her short-term memory. Luckily, her long-term memory is still rather sharp and I was able to talk to her about what she experienced during World War II...

    Although her family was ethnic German (surname: Haase), they lived in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. Her family owned or was in charge of a rather large farm, and had many animals and many farm-hands who worked for them.

    My grandmother never went to school, and to be honest, I don't think she knows how to read or write. One day, she was supposed to go to school, and literally as she was walking up the steps of the school, she had a bout of appendicitis. She saw it as a sign from god and decided never to go to school from that day on...

    One day, when she was very young, she remembered hearing a rumbling in the distance. Soon there after, SS troops stormed the area where her family lived in fast moving vehicles like motorcycles.

    An officer decided that he wanted their farm house... for what purpose, I do not know. Perhaps as headquarters or maybe for his personal residence while his unit was station in the Zhytomyr area? The officer shot the family dog (from what I hear, he was a large and beautiful shepard dog), and he sent my Oma's father away. My Oma thought that she'd never see her father again... The officer made my great-grandparents bedroom his own, and forced my Oma's family to be servants in their own home! Not only that, the Germans took all of the supplies and provisions that my Oma's family had set away. They were somehow able to hide a cow, and they were able to survive on the cow's milk and eventually it's meat.

    Sometime later, my grandmother and the remaining members of her family ended up in a long line of people under armed guard. My Oma assumes that they were Jews being led away... either for deportation or on-the-spot execution. Although young, my Oma sensed that something was wrong. She asked her mother: "Why are we here? Why are we in this line?" A passing German soldier heard my grandmother speaking German and took her and her family out of the line. This act probably saved their lives. The compassion of one German soldier probably allowed for my existance...

    I asked my grandma if she hated the German soldiers. She said no. She said more often than not they were more scared than she was. They were far away from home and just doing what they were ordered to do.

    Later, my Oma ended up as an "Osterbiter" (sp?). Essentially, she and her family worked for the remainder of the war. She said she spent most of the time picking fruit, especially grapes, in Yugoslavia. One day, she noticed a familiar looking man in the distance. It was her father, who was a member of another work group. They had a few minutes together, but eventually they were forced apart again. This ended up being the actual last time that my Oma and her siblings saw their father.

    When the war ended, my Oma and the rest of the family ended up in a refugee camp. My Oma met a man in one of the camps and soon thereafter my Uncle Victor was born. The man ended up being a violent womanizer but luckily my Oma was able to separate herself from him. When my Oma eventually made it to the United States, she met my grandfather, Georgi Schelechow. Not much is known about my grandpa's service in WWII. I think he was in the Soviet infantry, and I think he was captured by the Germans. Somehow he lost a finger, and he became a medical orderly / stretcher bearer for the Germans. He was a strict, but kind man. Together, they settled in Poughkeepsie, NY... the next city over from FDR's hometown in Hyde Park, NY, and they raised a family together. My grandfather passed away in 1990 and I was only 4yrs old. Unfortunately, I did not have an interest in WWII at that age, and I never had the opportunity to ask him about his service.

    Sorry to rant... but I thought it would be important to tell that story.

    Finally, here are my questions:

    1. Based on the documentation I was able to get researched on the Order of the Red Star I purchased, I understand there is a substantial archive somewhere with Soviet war records in it. Would it be possible to obtain information on what my grandfather did during the war?

    2. Does anyone know of any type of WWII militaria that would relate to Zhytomyr in any way?

    THANK YOU SO MUCH IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR TIME AND CONSIDERATION!
    Last edited by GIZMO8Z; 01-10-2012 at 05:17 PM.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Family Research and Militaria from WWII in Zhytomyr, Ukraine?

    Quote by GIZMO8Z View Post
    Later, my Oma ended up as an "Osterbiter" (sp?)
    This is certainly "Ost-arbeiter", literally German for "East Worker". These were conscripted workers from the eastern territories, especially Ukraine

    Rob

  4. #3

    Default Re: Family Research and Militaria from WWII in Zhytomyr, Ukraine?

    Quote by Battery Command Post View Post
    This is certainly "Ost-arbeiter", literally German for "East Worker". These were conscripted workers from the eastern territories, especially Ukraine

    Rob
    That's it! I'm sorry for the spelling error... my Oma (we call her Omi) speaks with an accent and I am not always able to understand her. Beyond that, I have no familiarity with German or Russian words. I did my best to sound it out!

  5. #4

    Default Re: Family Research and Militaria from WWII in Zhytomyr, Ukraine?

    Hi Joe, fasinating story and I enjoyed reading it.

    Personal files are still around: however, I have heard that many records relating to those who were once POW's and ended up in German service have been destroyed: now how true this is I don't know?

    Cheers, Ade.
    Had good advice? Saved money? Why not become a Gold Club Member, just hit the green "Join WRF Club" tab at the top of the page and help support the forum!

  6. #5

    Default Re: Family Research and Militaria from WWII in Zhytomyr, Ukraine?

    Joe, I hope you can get some info. Perhaps you should start by asking the person who did your Order of the Red Star info. The Russian MOD would be your source.

    I am not sure who took Zhytomyr, but I am thinking that it might be the 1. SS.

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