ostarbeiter avaIt was 1946… She returned home to Ukraine from Germany after World War II was over. Young ostarbeiter, almost 9 months pregnant, she had to leave her beloved husband-to-be in Germany and come home alone because she was desperately homesick and missed her family. Who knew that what was meant to be a nightmare of forced labor miles away from homeland would turn into a decent job and would bring this couple together. But life is funny that way – the worst circumstances sometimes lead to the best outcome.

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Her name was Kyrylenko Olga. She was deported to Germany as a foreign slave worker or “ostarbeiter” and spent several years there, working at one of the farms. But she quickly realized that her life wasn’t that bad.

She lived and worked at a big German family of farmers. They were kind to her, gave her presents for holidays, and let her have weekends to rest (while in the USSR, no weekends were allowed at the time, people had to work 7 days of the week). Probably for the first time in her life, Olga felt like she had a job rather than being a slave. Although, the “ost” mark on her clothes still let everyone around know who she was.


Three ostarbeiter women – Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish. Germany, 1943
Three ostarbeiter women – Ukrainian, Russian, and Polish. Germany, 1943


In Germany, she met another ostarbeiter – a Russian young man from a neighboring village who worked at one of the factories. They fell in love and started dating. When Olga got pregnant, her German employers even let the couple live together in one of the buildings at their property. They tried to persuade the new family to stay in Germany for good, but Olga missed her relatives (she hadn’t seen them for 4 years) and motherland too much. So, she decided to return home before the baby was born. The man she loved had no other choice than to stay in Germany for another year and a half.


Olga’s ostarbeiter boyfriend in Germany
Olga’s ostarbeiter boyfriend in Germany. On the right photo, alone; on the left, with friend


When Olga came back to Ukraine, she had two suitcases full of clothes, imitation jewelry, and other presents from her German employers. Those goods helped her family survive hungry postwar years – she was able to barter them for grains. In a way, Olga’s ostarbeiter work was the only thing that ensured her family’s survival.


Оstarbeiter love. German farmer family

Оstarbeiter love. German farmer family
German farmer family Olga worked for, 1944. The second photo is from a later date


Olga gave birth to a baby girl, and in 1.5 years, her beloved man arrived, married her, and stayed with his wife and daughter for the rest of his life.

In the 1960s, their granddaughter was born. And she was the one to tell me their love story. I wanted to share it with you because this story teaches us that everything that happens with us is non-accidental, there is always a purpose, even for the worst things we’re forced to face. So, never give up hope to be happy and to find your true love, no matter how challenging your life is right now.


Оstarbeiter love. You never know where you’ll find the love of your life
Olga with her husband, daughter, sister, and sister’s husband, 1966. Olga is on the very left, her husband is sitting, their daughter is on the very right

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