Nikolaj Alekseevic Pogasij


AdminPosted: November 18 ,2013

nterview taken the 5th of April by Alessia, Margherita, Agnese (Italy), Oksana (Ukraine)

Born in 1926 in Barvenkovo, a city 100 km away from Konstantinovka. How was your life before the war? We had a really poor life because we were 8 people (mum, dad, 5 brothers and 1 sister) and we lived just from the pension of my dad. He worked in the metallurgic industry in Konstantinovka and my mother wasn't working because she had to take care of the house and the family.

We had two horses and a vegetable garden. Without this we would have died. My parents were not interested in politics since basic needs of the family were the most important things.

In my childhood I experienced poverty, but now I have a quite good pension. How did you know that the war started? I knew it thanks to radio announcements. The war started in June and the Germans arrived here in October. They occupied the city and restored part of the city. They did not bomb too much of the city. How did your life and the city change during the first months of war? Industries were not working anymore. I didn’t understand exactly what was going on because I was too young.

All my brothers went to the army and even my sister left to serve as a nurse. I remained alone at home with my parents. My dad didn’t go to the army as he was already 60 years old. I had different experiences with Germans: some of them were nice with us, others were not nice to us. But that experience is common. In general I did not suffer violence from them.

After the beginning of the war life got worst, especially because there was just a little food. Did you feel angry because of they were here? Of course we were not happy, but there wasn't strong opposition from local people. When were you caught by Germans? I was caught on January or February 1943. I was 16 years old. They caught a lot of other young people.

My parents were not deported because they were already 60 years old, and Germans took just young people because they were capable of working. I didn’t have time to take anything with me and they put me immediately on the train: there were no seats because the wagons were used priorely for transporting goods. I was alone and I didn't recognize anyone that I knew. Women and men had been separated. Germans did not tell us about the destination. They fed us, but the food was really bad. Turnip, for example, here it is hard to find it, but they would give us a lot. We were starving, so even if it was not tasty, we ate that food anyway. That long trip ended in Austria: in a lager at the border to Italy at the Brenner passage in the mountains, at 350 metres above the sea. The name of the place was Lienz. My work consisted in repairing the railway connection between Italy and Germany. It was a very hard work and just men did it. The Americans bombed that place quite often. I did not know what a lager was before seeing that place and as the conditions of living and working were really hard, a lot of people died in short time. We lived in wooden barracks. There were two or three bunk beds in each barrack. Each barrack was used as shelter for 200-250 people. There were a few Italians, but lot of English, French, Ukrainian and Russian people, and we were all working on the railway. I have spent almost one year in the lager before escaping. It was a quite big lager.

It was impossible to socialize with other people, because they spoke other languages. Russian-speaking people were put into separate groups. I was able to understand only German quite well. What's the worst memory you have about the lager? I can just say one word: lager. But I would like to say that not all Germans were bad to us, some were kind and polite.

Did you see people dying? Of course I saw them. Every day about 60 or 70 people died. I saw thousands of people dying. And Germans with bulldozer put all the corps in a hole. Is it possible to get used to death? I believe a normal, sane man, cannot get used to death. When did you manage to escape? I escaped with 15 other people when the Americans bombed the lager. We knew that on the North there was Germany, so we ran toward South, but we did not know anything more than that. Some of them died just because they had no more energy. We arrived to Bolzano. There people speak rather German than Italian. We asked a woman for some clothes, because we were wearing some striped uniforms. She gave me something to wear. But in any case, they caught me again. Why did you decide to go to Italy, even if you know that there were fascists? We went to Italy because we knew that there were people who fought against fascists.

Italy is the country that saved me; I've been living there for two years and I consider it as my second motherland. What happened next? After two months the Italian police caught me again and they brought me to another lager, which was really diffent and better than the first one. We were working in the airdrome in Villafranca. I stayed there less than one month.

It was a place for civil prisoners, there were French and English people, but I didn't speak much with them because of the language. One day a man came to me during the lunch break and he said "Let's go". His name was Ezechia, he's dead now, but he saved me. Then I have been living with him and his family for 2 years. I worked in the fields and at home I learned Italian. After two years I went to Milan where there was a Soviet Union representation, but at that time it was still impossible to come back home. The war wasn’t over yet.

I started to travel to many Italian cities trying to find people from Soviet Union to organize and to go back home. Many older people didn't want to come back to the Soviet Union, because they knew they would be considered as traitors of the motherland and they would maybe be murdered. They fought in the Soviet army and they were captured. I was very young (18 years old) and I wanted to go back. What are your best memories about Italy? My best memories of Italy are connected to my family there, because they tought me Italian. People there are all good. My favourite city is Villafranca, but Verona and Venice are also very nice cities. I consider Italy my second Motherland. Did you have contacts with Partisans? Few. One or two times I went to destroy German telephone lines. A person tought me how to destroy contacts. How did you manage then to came back home? I don't remember very well. I remember that I met my brothers, who were serving in the army, in Austria and I entered the army too. I served the army there until Austria declared its neutrality and then I moved to Ukraine. Did you manage to have contacts with your family during those years? Yes. We had the possibility to write each other. How did you find life when you came back to Ukraine? I was nothing special.

I continued to study and than I started to work in the glass industry and later on "nella fabbrica di mattoni". The city was different because everything was destroyed and new houses have been constructed. What kind of relationship did you have with your neighbours after the war? Did you want to share your experience with someone else? It was a normal relationship. But if people in your professional environment knew that you worked in occupied territorities ries, they didn't allow you to work there anymore. I couldn't speak about my previous life because it was strictly forbidden. I wanted to share my past with my wife and other beloved people, and no one else. Did you receive some compensation from Austria? Yes, in 1999 I received 600 marks and then in 2000 250 euros.

We then had the possibility to have an eye operation.




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