Yelena Petrova (Shulkina)

The Barges were Sinking before our Eyes

My name is Yelena Petrova. When I was 3,5 years old, me with my 30-years-old mother, my 11-year-old brother, my mother's sister of 33 years old with three small children and my grandparents fled under the bombardment of our house in the town of Krivoi Rog to the railway station. We were evacuating. My dad was already fighting at the front at that time. We spent several days at the station among hundreds of other people like us, until we were able to find a place in the open space of a train without walls and ceiling. It was crammed with people. The train moved off and left the station. Suddenly, German planes flew and began to bomb. The train was passing by a corn field; the locomotive got unhooked and continued to move forward. People began to jump out from the platforms and hide in the corn, but our grandfather, who was already 60 years old, did not allow anyone of us to do that. The adults stood in the shape of a “hovel” over the five children until the end of the bombing. As soon as the planes flew away, the locomotive picked up the carriages and began moving. The people ran after the train trying to climb on it, they fell down screaming, but the train increased its speed and many of them were left in the field. It was terrible. The children were crying. We ran out of food and my younger brother fell ill. My mother and aunt went somewhere to get food for us and we were led from the train to a station where during 2 days we were sitting on the ground with our grandparents. Then my mother and aunt came back with some food and told us that we need to cross the Volga river. We floated on barges and were bombed by the Germans, many of the barges sank in front of us.

I can still hear the screams, moans, and cries of drowning people in my ears, though am 75 years old now. We were lucky because our barge reached the opposite coast. Again, we walked and went by carts. We were hungry, barefoot and sick, but we reached the city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan. There we took a lodging at a house of one Uzbek woman and lived from hand to mouth. My mother fell ill with typhus and miraculously survived, but my 3-year-old cousin fell ill and died. After being seriously wounded my father returned from the war and we began to think of returning home to Ukraine. Even these days it is terrible to recall the evacuation period.