Rayisa Majstrenko


I was born in Kiev on the 12th of September in 1938. My father, a career officer Lymarev Vadim Petrovich was Ukrainian, my mother Lymareva Cilja Mironovna was Jewish.
For me Babyn Yar began even before the war. My mother's parents did not allow her to marry my father for two reasons: he was not Jewish origin and he had a son from his first marriage. His first wife had tuberculosis and she died, when their son was only 9 months. But in a month after the death of his first wife, my parents were married. We lived with my mother and my half brother Valentin in the father's family, and at this time my father studied at the Military School in Poltava. My father's parents story is not also simple.

My grandfather Lymarev Petr was born in Kovel. From the time he was nine years old, he had been working as a stovemaker. It was a wise man with two classes of parochial school. He had a small notebook, where he had written orders for many months in advance. Before the war and after it my grandfather was elected people's assessor time after time in the Railway area. My grandmother Lymareva Tetyana was the second wife of my grandfather. Like my grandfather, grandmother also had no education, but that did not prevent her to be intelligent, smart, considerate woman with an unusually sensitive and kind heart. She did not have her own children, but the whole life she saved and raised children: my father, my younger brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, my brother and me, my son.
About my mother's family I knew less information. Our families did not communicate. I only knew that her family was very religious and plentiful. Grandfather Kovkin Meer came with his family to Kiev from the Jewish town. They lived on the Batyeva Mount . He worked as a cab driver, he had horses and carts. My mom communicated with her family, but they did not come to us. Only on the 29th of September in 1941, when I was barely 3 years old, on that fateful day, a day of judgment for the Jews, to our house on the Saksaganskogo street, 131 arrived a large cart with my mother's relatives. The cart was led by grandfather Meer.

When in Kyev appeared German leaflets with order for Jews to gather at the Luk'janovskoe cemetery, people received it as an order to evacuate all Jews from the city. It was logical, as there was a branch railway line. Grandfather Peter persuaded my mother did not go to a gathering place. He promised to hide us. But grandfather’s Meer arrival changed the situation. He believed that the leaflets were about the Jews’ moving, and convinced my mother to go with them. My mother agreed with his arguments and bundled quickly. Also she took all documents, photos, values, throw it all on the cart, seated me and my brother on the cart. But at the last moment my grandfather Peter took my brother and said us, that he would bring him, when my mother would arranged and sent address. Grandmother Tanya went to see us off. According to my grandmother, there were about 18 – 20 people, and no one knew how it all would end.

Our road of death runs across Saksaganskogo street, to the Jewish bazaar (now Victory Square), followed by the Brest-Litovsk highway, on Kerosinnoj street to the area of Luk'janovskoe cemetery. People walked, rode on carts, drove baby carriages with children, and carried old people and patients on blankets, stretchers. It seemed that all Jewish grief spurtled onto the streets. That sorrowful column was moving very slowly and stayed often. At the next stop near the stadium "Start", I distinctly remember myself sitting among the banks of jar or jam. I was small, and the banks were huge, with wide necks, which were tied with white rags.
Suddenly I heard some noise, people shouted, ran. I also ran and saw a column of old people in white. So I called them later "white grandparents." They were in their underwear, beaten and bloodied. A woman hugging one of them and crying. She was unglued from him. Grandmother shouted: "Good people, maybe they see each other the last time!" She took me in her arms and we walked on silently. I twined around her neck with my little arms and even my mom could not pick me up. People were depressed and silent.

So we come to the place, where they began to detach families. People shouted and were rushing in different directions here. Everything happened quickly, Germans did not stand on ceremony with anybody: people were beaten with batons and rifle butts. Women and children were taken to one side, men and boys - in another side. From afar were heard a string of bursts. Columns of people were surrounded with Germans and policemen.
My grandmother kept about herself a passport. She showed it and shouted: "I am Russian." My grandmother was a dark-haired and looked Jewish. A policeman ran up to her and shouted: "Here all are Jews." He hit her with the butt on the ground, aiming at the same time in my head. But my grandmother had time to lend a shoulder and fell. Approached German said: "Jude?" The policeman said, "She said, she is Russian." German grabbed grandmother by the collar, lifted on her feet and threw her. All this time I was hanging on my grandmother’s neck, and I narrowly escaped death, because butt did not hit me in the head , but it broke my grandmother’s shoulder . My grandmother was distracted with pain and fear. She did not stop to cross herself and shout "I am Russian!" and ran into the crowd. People gave way to her, forming a corridor, and when grandmother passed the cordon, she rushed to the cemetery. A 12 year-old girl kept pace with us. The shooting started, but we were not persecuted. We had been running until we fell and hid in the bushes among the graves. The girl was with us. Grandmother hugged us, softly stroked and constantly lamented: "Hush, hush!"
So we were sitting there until dark, and then began to find a way to home. Grandma knew that area badly, and we wandered in the darkness near the scene of the tragedy. The girl who was with us, said that she knew where her relatives were and left. Only at dawn we returned home. My grandmother told me that she could not come home with me for 3 days. When we were getting into the room, I started to cry, and she had all this time to stay with me in her arms in the yard. Fate spared us, I was saved by my grandmother, my father's stepmother, and all twenty people: Mom, Grandpa Meer, my mother's sisters and their children remained forever in Babyn Yar. Let they be remembered forever.
During the war, the children grow up early. In my mind clearly postponed that it was really dangerous to be a Jew. And also the unbearable hunger and cold. When a bakery factory was bombed, dough flowed on the ground. People picked this dough up, but grandma Frosja, grandmother’s sister, did not have any place to put there dough! Without hesitation, she took off her tights and brought that sour dough in half with the ground for us. What a delicious bread turned out! It seemed that I had not eaten anything tastier in my life.
After the events at Babyn Yar, we continued to live in our flat on Saksaganskogo street . We lived in two rooms, in two others lived grandfather's sister Xenia with her daughter, her son- in-law and three grandchildren. In our two little rooms except us were living grandma Frosja with an insane grandfather Akim. He survived, because he came home to wash on the day, when Cyril's hospital patients were killed,. Also grandmother’s 9-year-old nephew Ljusik and his sister Galina lived with us.
In our backyard there were two large houses, where were many neighbors who knew about our tragedy and my nationality. But no one did not issue us. Conversely. When there were raids, one of the neighbors or the janitor warned us, and we ran with my grandfather to the basement or the attic. Especially I remember the basement. We hid among the piles of broken bricks and glass. Usually raid did not go to the basement, they shot with automaton or threw a grenade. I distinctly remember the German boots and a barrel of an automaton machine, which was shooting in the dark.
Often I together with my grandmother went to Darnica and Syrec to find my father among the prisoners. We brought bread, onion, potato. We could not find father, but we gave our meager “treats” to hungry people behind a barbed wire.
Adults, everyone in his own way, took part in our survival. Grandma Frosja sewed clothes for people, grandfather constructed ovens, my grandmother went to the neighboring villages to change things on the products. From the remaining shreds grandma Frosja sewed colorful clothes for me and my brother. When adults were leaving, my brother and I were locked in a room and grandfather Akim in another one. Sometimes we had to sit indoors for days.
Not always grandmother’s adventures ended good: on the suburbs of Kyiv Germans and policemen took away something , what was possible to exchange. And the feast was in the house when out of brought flour grandmother baked unleavened cakes in a frying pan without fat. They were pierced with a fork not to stuck to the pan. Then they were broken, crumbled with a bit of garlic, poured with the boiling water. It was a real feast for our empty stomachs.
Six months before the liberation of Kyiv our district moved into the restricted area. At night we went to Solomenka to visit grandmother’s nieces and we broke curfew. We were up for shot because of it. All my life I will remember that mournful procession. The night was very dark. Grandma Frosja led resisting grandfather Akim. My brother helped her. We were afraid if Akim cried. Grandpa carried the cart with our belongings, grandmother pushed it behind, and I clutched my grandmother’s hemline.
Grandma's nieces Potapova Anna, Potapova Olympiada, Potapova Tamara and a little son of aunt Lipa,Valerij, lived in two tiny rooms, wich they used as a kitchen, as a dining room, as a bedroom, and even as the bathroom. They made us feel welcome. We all slept on the floor, and in the day we spent our time out of the house. In three one-storey, ramshackle houses crowded about 10 families with a lot of children. In the yard there were standing several sheds and one common toilet , which had an adjacent rear wall with a small hill. I climbed in this slot, when there were raids, or accidentally came Germans and policemen. I was afraid of the big, black spiders in this slot, but one fear won another.

On the eve of the arrival of our troops Germans expelled all residents of Kyiv. They wanted to leave behind a dead city. On that day we were sitting in the hallway of our suitcases, waiting our fate and deciding: "To leave or not to leave?" The door opened, and the Germans went into the hallway. Tall officer shouted something angrily. Interpreter banged his fist on the table and too loudly said: "That's right, get out of one door, the go into another one, but do not go away from Kyiv. Tomorrow there will be ours. "The officer patted him on the shoulder: "Gut, Gut."

The same night we got home on Saksaganskogo street. Here gathered a lot of neighbors. Janitor Petro Ivanovych closed the gates with a help of a huge padlock. Adults were happily excited and scared at the same time. They gathered in one room, and we, children, were seated on the bed in the hallway. But we could not sit still. We hopped on the linked fabric, squealed, rejoiced.
Nobody noticed the explosions and fire outside the gate. At the gates constantly knocked, but the janitor forbidden to approach them. Only at dawn the silence came. Someone shouted: "Our!" We rushed onto the street. Near the gate in the basement there were half-naked corpses of Germans. A Soviet tank stood in front of the house. Tanker , who was standing in the hatch, was without a helmet. He wiped the sweat from his face and asked how to get to Stalinka. People surrounded the tank, touched it, touched a tanker. Grandmother stood and cried. She kept me in her arms and wrapped me in a handkerchief. Tanker offered his hand to us , and I was lifted by my grandmother into his hand. He took me carefully, pressed to unshaven cheek and kissed. Thus the occupation finished for us.
But my hungry and cold childhood did not finish. Grandpa was constantly ill, because he got cold at the drafts in apartments where he laid the oven. That fact reflected in the budget, as our grandfather was the only breadwinner.
My father was listed as missing till 1945. He got a packet in the chest in 1942 at the suburbs of Stalingrad and all this time he was under treatment somewhere in hospitals in Russia. He did not know that my mother died, but he married a nurse who nursed him. When my father found out that my mother was dead, he brought his new wife to Kyiv, where she gave birth to a baby girl. They did not live with us. They had three children, so my brother and I grew up with our grandparents.
My childhood with toys, clothes and a good meal finished with the advent of war. The rest of my life was in perpetual poverty. When my grandmother took me to the first class, we were sent back as I looked four year old child. My hands, which were frozen in time of war , were always red and aroused disgust at my more affluent peers. I was always hungry. Even getting married, I had only school uniform and prom dress, which was sewn by grandma Frosja.
But thanks to my grandparents I'm alive. I have a husband and two children. My son is a stuntman and a stunt coordinator. My daughter is a ballet dancer. I and my husband are a former ballet dancers and we are working as the leaders of children's company "Obolon", where are dancing more than 200 children. May God give our children and grandchildren will never survive that we got at our fate!