Mar 17, 2014
08:29 AM
Education

University of New Haven Class Hears Account of Nazis in Russia From Alumnus

University of New Haven Class Hears Account of Nazis in Russia From Alumnus

Mara Lavitt/New Haven Register

Walter Wolog of Orange spoke to a University of New Haven honors class about his childhood in Russia during World War II and later in the Soviet Union.

Walter Wolog, 88, warned students in University of New Haven Professor Daria Kirjanov’s honors class Friday that he could tell stories about his experiences growing up in post-Revolutionary Russia “for 10 hours” if they didn’t stop him.

And while many of the students in Kirjanov’s “Stories of Displaced Lives: Russian and Eastern European Memoirs” course took off quickly after the class ended — heading off to spring break — if Wolog had kept talking, they probably would have kept listening.

Wolog and his brother were among an estimated 3 million to 5.5 million Ostarbeiter workers (forced labor) who were brought to Germany to work and forced to wear dark blue and white badges with the letters “OST,” the German word for east, written on them so they would always be identified.

For 75 minutes, Wolog, a 1973 UNH engineering alumnus who grew up mostly in Moscow and has long lived in Orange, told them stories about his childhood in both Stalinist and later Nazi-occupied eastern Russia.

The former is where his father, a very patriotic, highly decorated Russian military man who initially liked the idea of Communism and was close to the late revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin, was arrested as an “enemy of the state” in April 1938, after Lenin’s death.

He was taken away, never to return.

Back then, “the government terrorized the people ... and my family were victims of Stalin’s Army,” he said.

Two men from the Soviet NKVD — the People’s Commisariat for Internal Affairs — drove up in one of their dark-tinted black cars (nicknamed “the Black Crows”), woke everyone up and searched the house.

They frisked his mother, took what they wanted and led away his father, who at the time was the chief of the Headquarters of Sanitary Aviation in Moscow; essentially a pilot who transported people in emergency medical situations.

His last words to his family were that his arrest would be temporary and he would return home within a few weeks or months. The family soon learned, however, that he had been sentenced to 10 years of hard labor with no communication outside the camp. But even that turned out to be a euphemism.

It was many, many years later that Wolog, born along with his twin brother, Lev, on Sept. 6, 1925, in Rostov, where his father was helping to build an airport, learned that his dad was executed four months after his detainment, in August 1938.

Much later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the world learned of Butovo, a place on the site of a Russian Orthodox Church where many people were shot in huge ditches and thousands of human bones were dug up.

Wolog believes his father’s bones were among them.

After the fall of the USSR, Wolog gave a $100 donation to a Russian Orthodox Church he belongs to in Stratford and asked the pastor, who was about to visit a church in Butovo, to give it to the church there. The pastor came back with a book for Wolog.

When he opened it, on the very page he opened it to was an official government photograph of his father, taken just before he was executed, Wolog said.

Wolog also told the students about his several years living under Nazi German occupation, first in an area west of Moscow that Hitler’s army had overrun and later in Germany itself, where the young Wolog and his brother were sent as slave labor.

His brother and he had been sent to live with their aunt Lilya and cousin Yura after their mother, Ekaterina, lost her job as an artist and then slipped on some ice and broke her leg.

The aunt worked as a nurse in a “vacation home” on a beautiful lake in Ust-Dolissy, about 12 miles east of the Estonian border. They went there to stay, never to see their mother again.

Soon after, Nazi Germany attacked and Russia entered what became World War II.

Initially, nothing happened where they lived. Then “the stores were all empty” as worried people stocked up, he said. Civilians, including the Wolog brothers, were enlisted to dig trenches to keep the Germans out.

The first news that they got on loud speakers throughout the town was about how well the war was going, how far Russia had pressed into Germany and how many German prisoners the Red Army had taken.

Those were lies.

Soon, the Nazis were at their doorstep.

See the full story online at the New Haven Register.

 

University of New Haven Class Hears Account of Nazis in Russia From Alumnus

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