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Regina Volodarsky

Through the Eyes of a Child

By: Regina Volodarsky
College Now Course - BSS 1

Sitting at the dining room table this past Thanksgiving Day, my grandma and I got into a discussion about her early childhood. As painful as it was for her to remember, and as surprising to me she didn't forget, she uncovered a story to me that I never thought I would hear or even imagine. This is her story told to me through pain and tears.

Mira Margolina Volodarsky was born and raised in Kiev, Russia with her mother, her father and her younger sister. On June 22, 1941 at four o'clock in the morning, there were bombs going off in Kiev. At 12 o'clock the next day, they announced on the radio that a war had begun. She remembered feeling anxious and scared of what was going to happen in the upcoming, days, weeks and years.

From that moment, they had drafted her father into the Army and they sent her mother off to dig trenches. On July 22nd her mother returned home by accident and brought a sick lady with her. My grandmother and her sister were home alone at that time. She was eleven years old and her sister was only five. That day, her father also returned home to evacuate them.

They traveled almost three weeks on the cargo train to their unknown destination. They didn't have any food or water with them. There were a lot of people on the railroad and many of them were getting very sick. They arrived on a farm in the suburbs of Chelabensk, Russia. The people there did not welcome them very well. They were all scattered in different houses. Her mother went to work on a field, and my grandmother was entering the fourth grade. The school she went to occupied only one room, in which there were four grades and yet only one teacher.

The next year she was supposed to attend the fifth grade. My grandmother, her mother and her sister got moved to a different farm. Her new school now had seven grades in one room. Her mother went to work as a seamstress and her sister went to preschool. They settled in a very tiny room of a little two-story house. They slept on the floor without a bed and didn't have any blankets or any wood to make a fire. They weren't allowed to cut any twigs during the day, so in the nighttime they went to the nearest forest to get some twigs to make a fire. Cold and scared that anyone would find them, they knew they had to find twigs, or wood to survive knowing they would be punished if they were caught.

My grandmother, her mother and her sister got sick with malaria. It was a very serious disease at that time. They were up all night shaking and whatever they tried to do, nothing helped. Overtime and through a lot of suffering they managed to recover from the disease. Soon after, they got a piece of land near their house where they planted potatoes, but it didn't last them for a very long time. Then, they walked around the fields finding any scrap of food that they possibly could. When they did find food, which was mostly spoiled, they came back to their house and cooked it.

One day when the three of them were in their shelter, the wall collapsed in their room and they were left stranded outside, but were given another room shortly. They slept on a Russian furnace, which wasn't useful because it was all covered in ice. They put all of their clothes on the furnace, which made them warm and gave them something to sleep on.

At this time they had no textbooks or notebooks for school. My grandmother wrote with a pencil on a newspaper between the lines. She sat on her knees near the furnace, and opened the door because there was no light in the room. Winters were very cold, and the days were short. The summer days were also very cold. Life was basically very hard. To buy bread you were given a card to manage how much bread was being sold. Unfortunately, not too many of these cards were being handed out. She remembers that when she broke off a piece of bread more than her allowed portion, her mother slapped her hand, and they cried for a very long time because they were so sad and frustrated with their life. They remembered this moment for the rest of their lives and therefore, never took bread for granted. They dreamed about the day where they would be able to drink warm, sweat tea, and eat a piece of bread with butter.

There was no end to their happiness when they found out on May 9, 1945 that the war was finally over. Their father unfortunately was reported 'missing'. My grandmother's mother searched for her husband years after the war as over, but got no results. On October 31, 1945 they came back to Kiev and their life was still very hard. They had no where to live and none of their family or friends wanted to take them in because they were scared of the problems a mother with two children, and no husband might cause. They finally got a welcome from a friend who opened her house to them. My grandmother soon started to work as a bookkeeper for a company, and that had been her job until this day.

Many people always take what they have for granted, not knowing how much worse it could actually be. My grandmother became a strong woman from her experiences and through the pain she felt as a young girl. She learned to appreciate life and everything in it. It takes a lot of courage to go through something as drastic as she did, and yet, still be an amazing person as she is today.