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January 19, 1923 | Magovka, Soviet Union
Alexandra was the second-youngest of six children born to Russian Orthodox parents. Her family lived in a small village in the Orlovskaya region, some 250 miles south of Moscow [in the Soviet Union]. She attended public school, where she learned German. Alexandra's father was a plasterer and painter, and often worked away from home for months. Her mother worked at a collective farm in the village.
1933-39: In 1933 food was scarce. The government seized grain harvests for export; other crops were taken to feed the military. We improvised for food. Nettles picked from a meadow made a good soup; oak leaves, dried, crushed and mixed with a little flour made bread. In 1936 we joined my father in Zhdanov on the Azov Sea where he had moved for work. We lived in a one-room apartment, and shared a kitchen with two other families.
1940-44: In May 1942 I was deported with other Soviets by cattle car to Germany. We were now slaves to the Reich, and had to wear a patch to show we were "easterners." I was assigned to work at an inn on the Mosel River. My Nazi boss, a cold woman, relished telling me I was a subhuman. Secretly I'd listen to Soviet news on their radio. One day I was caught and questioned by the Gestapo. I told them I listened only to hear my own language. They warned me that next time I'd be sent to a concentration camp.
Alexandra was liberated by American forces in March 1945. She remained in Germany, working in both the Soviet and American zones, before emigrating to the United States in 1949.