Olga Ryabtchenko on the impact of forced labour on her fathers life

Leonid Iwanowitsch Ryabtchenko

Leonid Ryabchenko was born on September 2, 1925 in the Soviet Union. His mother was German and Leonid grew up speaking German. Because of his mother's origins, Leonid's parents were considered as suspicious and ‘unsoviet’ in the village of Snytin. The family suffers from repression. In 1941 Leonid's father was arrested by the Soviet rulers for “counter-revolutionary agitation”. He dies in prison one year later.

To avoid a similar fate, Leonid flees to Germany. In May 1943 he reaches Berlin. Although he went to Germany voluntarily, Leonid soon ended up in the system of forced labour. He is housed in a forced labor camp and forced to work at the "Deutsche Industrie Werke AG" (DIWAG) in Berlin-Spandau. He has to work ten hours a day in the foundry. While working in a casting hall, Leonid sustaines a severe burn. But due to his mother's German origins, Leonid Ryabchenko finds himself in a special situation: Although he comes from the Ukraine, he is not considered an ‘Ostarbeiter’. He can move around relatively freely and his experiences differ from those of most Eastern European forced laborers.

When the factory and the warehouse are destroyed in an air raid, Leonid is sent to Winterspelt near the Belgian border for further work, and later on to Vienna, where he is liberated on January 17, 1945. As a Soviet citizen, he is drafted immediately into the Red Army to complete his military service. In 1948 Leonid Ryabchenko is arrested for "anti-Soviet relations and hostile activities". He is interned in various penal camps and prisons until 1958. There, he also is forced to work.

Despite his complete rehabilitation in 1963, Leonid does not manage to regain a full foothold in society. He processes his experiences during and after World War II in numerous autobiographical books. Since the 1990s he is a member of the Ukrainian Association of Political Prisoners and Repressions. 2005 he is awarded with the Ukrainian Order of Merit 3rd Degree. Leonid Ryabchenko dies in 2015.