MOGILEV, 5 May (BelTA) - We need to remember the horrors of the war and make sure they never happen again, Leningrad siege survivor, resident of Mogilev Elizaveta Khomchenko said as he talked to a BelTA correspondent. The woman celebrated her 90th birthday on 5 May.
"It is important for us to remember the horrors of the Great Patriotic War. It was a terrible time of horror, hunger and fear. Though we were kids, we remember everything. We should tell the descendants about what happened so that today's generations can compare that time and the present and understand the horror of war. Comparing is needed to make sure similar events should never happen,” Elizaveta Khomchenko said. “We saw people die. We knew hunger. We were not living. We were surviving. We have lived to this day to see a happy life under a peaceful sky. We have no right to forget for the sake of those who did not return from the battlefields, who forever remained in the trenches and under the rubble of houses destroyed by fascist bombs.”
Elizaveta Khomchenko was born on 5 May 1931 in Leningrad where she lived with her parents, grandfather and younger brother. “Suddenly the war began. No one understood then what had happened. Our house was soon firebombed. Then they announced on the radio that the war began. No one had any idea what it was and how to live with it now. People began to stock up on food buying whatever they could. The shops were quickly emptied and life continued," she said.
Later, Elizaveta's father was seriously injured at the factory and died soon afterwards. Then the grandfather fell ill. The mother went to get some for medicine for him and did not return. “She was killed in the bombing. Later we were returned her purse. Very soon the grandfather passed away. My brother Valik, who was only 3 years old, and I were left alone. We were looked after by a house manager and a street cleaner. They gave us money, coupons whatever they could spare. Our neighbors helped us too,” Elizaveta Khomchenko recalled. “It was a difficult time. I would leave my brother at home alone and would go out to the street to beg for food. There were a lot of people like me. Then I would go home and share everything I had with my brother. When the Nazis would start bombing, we would lie on a sofa hugging each other. I thought at the time that if we were to die, at least we would die together. I did not cry. It seemed to me then that everyone lived a life like this.”
After the Red Army lifted the blockade in 1944, she and her brother Valentin were taken to an orphanage in Ivanovo Oblast. In 1945 she returned back to Leningrad to study and restore the city. She started her working career at the age of 15 at a weaving factory. "People were looking for relatives and succeeded. I decided to give it a try. There was no family left in Leningrad, and then I remembered that my father was from Mogilev. Before the war I went to visit my grandmother. She lived near the Dubrovenka river. I enjoyed spending time there,” the woman shared her memories. “In 1949 I moved to Mogilev. Neighbors and friends helped me find work. I got a job at Vesnyanka where I worked till retirement. I got married, have three children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. I was able to find my brother, 17 years later. He already had a family, a child."
The Mogilev City Hall hosted a solemn reception to wish happy birthday to Elizaveta Khomchenko. She received greetings from Mogilev Vice Mayor Alla Galushko, Chairman of the Mogilev City Council of Deputies Maksim Gurin, head of the labor, employment and social protection department of the Mogilev City Hall Marina Snytko, representatives of public and veteran associations of the region and the city. The students of the agricultural and economic college of Bobruisk also came to convey their good wishes.
“It is a great honor for us to wish you happy birthday on such a sunny day, in the run-up to Victory Day. Your recollections of the life in the besieged Leningrad can leave no one indifferent. You are an example for us and a real pride of our city. You life was hard. You lived through the war, and then restored the country from the ruins. Let me express gratitude to you on behalf of all Mogilev residents for everything that you have done and continue doing for us. Such meetings, such sharing help us preserve the memory of the heroic deeds of ordinary people and remember about the destructive power of war,” Maksim Gurin said.
Photos by Oleg Foinitsky