Families reveal stories of Soviet Army soldiers for the Great Patriotic War

b_polk_shapka_2The people of the former USSR will never forget the Great Patriotic War. A boundless amount of information has been finding its way onto the Internet. The only things lacking online have been faces and stories of the Red Army soldiers until now.

Бессмертного полка is filling in that gap to bring faces and stories of the average Soviet Army soldier. It’s easy to find this material on the soldiers who were most notable in the Great Patriotic War.

Now, the average and proud Soviet Army soldiers are being remembered with photos and stories by their living relatives on Бессмертного полка.  Maybe I should say LIVING RELATIVES one more time.

This is not just some website with a list of soldiers and their divisions. It’s an opportunity to find living relatives of family disconnected by the war.

So here’s how to use the website:

  1. First use Google Translate to put names and places of residence in Russian.
  2. Copy and paste the translated keywords into the search box here and click on искать. If results are not found, slowly reduce the number of keywords for the soldier being researched.
  3. When the results appear, copy and paste them into Google Translate to see which results would be most useful.
  4. If the website is intimidating in Russian, use this technique: translated name of solider and their place of residence into Google with site:http://moypolk.ru/. For example: Иванов Кострома  site:http://moypolk.ru/ Then follow step 3.
  5. To contact the person who posted a page, click on the name next to Координатор on the right that is above МЫ В СОЦСЕТЯХ (for the social network images). That person is the organizer for the region where that soldier lived.

Family also can be found by copying keywords from the soldier’s page such as full name, Родился (born) then date,  д. (abbreviation for village) then the village’s name, and медали (medals) and pasting those keywords into Google.

Make that extra effort and it could result in discovering an incredible amount of information on those long, lost relatives.

Related posts:
Massive Soviet Army WWII database tells the story of millions of soldiers
Time-killing Google search leads to massive WWI database

Unique website reveals military and repression era information from Russia

Finding a website that is easy to use and filled with information for Russian genealogy takes a lot of patience and time to uncover.

Погибшие is an incredible website with information spanning from War of 1812 to the first Chechen War. That makes it a unique website for Russian genealogy.

Usually, it would take a lot of time to cover this material on numerous websites that is just alone on Погибшие. This website provides information on some of those who served in the Patriotic War of 1812, Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905, World War I, World War II, Afghanistan War and the first Chechen War.

Not only are patriotic Russians covered on this website, information can be found on some rebels and repressed people of the Russian Revolution and USSR.

This website is only in Russian and can be translated by using Google Translate. Here is the website translated into English.

Here are tips on how to use this website even with little knowledge of Russian.

  1. Have your surnames translated into Russian on Google Translate.
  2. Then copy and paste your translated surnames into the left box on Google Translate to see whether any of the names translate into words such as surname Kapusta (translated from Cyrillic to English will be Cabbage). When using Google Translate, someone looking for people named Kapusta will have to look for people named Cabbage.
  3. If using Google Translate makes this website too hard to understand, here is another way to search the entire website. Do step 1 and then paste one surname at a time next to site:http://xn--90adhkb6ag0f.xn--p1ai/ into Google.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Then copy and paste the search results into Google Translate to see which results are worth viewing.
  4. If this website doesn’t intimidate you in Russian, paste one surname at a time into the search box on the right above Введите фамилию солдата to find only soldiers.
  5. If you use Google Translate with this website, paste one surname at a time into the search box on the right above Enter the name of a soldier.
  6. Step 3 will be needed to search the entire website. It’s as simple as Иванов site:http://xn--90adhkb6ag0f.xn--p1ai/ into Google.
  7. Once you find information that could be useful, it’s time move onto serious searching on the Internet, based on the information you found.

Take that next step by reading Secrets of searching the Internet in Russian and Ukrainian like a native speaker.

Massive Soviet Army WWII database tells the story of millions of soldiers

The Russian government is sharing the joy of the 70th anniversary for the Soviet Army’s victory over the German army with the world. This anniversary is being celebrated with the opening of an impressive database.

Memory of a Nation 1941-1945 has more than 50 million records on Soviet Army WWII soldiers and that includes 2 million records on locations of soldiers’ burial sites.

The cherry on top of this tasty Russian torte is that paths of individual soldiers are shown on maps with details on their unit’s activities. It is so thrilling to look up my grandfather’s brother on this database and see the path he took with his unit through Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany and learn the medals he earned on his way to the Soviet Army’s victory.

mapvalentin

I do not have the luck of finding records of my grandfather in this database. He was a “traitor” for getting captured by the German army, then escaping a German POW camp and finding a way out of the Soviet Ukraine during the war.

Every effort to find his records have failed after contacting military archives in Ukraine and Russia. Now that effort to contact military archives is no longer needed, thanks to this database.

The only caveat in using this database is that only keywords in Russian can be used in the search engine. Names and other keywords can be easily translated on Google Translate. This website can be viewed through Google Translate here.

To easily work through the website, here are some simple translations: фамилия: last name; имя: first name; отчество: patronymic name (middle name from the father, i.e. Ivanovich); год рождения: birth year; место рождения: place of birth; and дата выбытия: date of service ending.

Out of curiosity, I searched my great-grandfather’s Russian birth village to see who would appear in the database. This may be an easier way to find relatives in the database if it is easier to translate names of villages and small towns than complicated Russian surnames.

If people who are uncomfortable with Russian websites still aren’t convinced of the database’s value, here is an article in English, explaining the database in detail.

The effort to use this database will prove to be well-worth it in results for many people.

Time-killing Google search leads to massive WWI database

Everyone has heard the saying that things will come to you when you are not looking. I was searching on Google about my paternal grandmother’s Don Cossack ancestry.

I didn’t find anything too exciting until one result was a database for Russian soldiers who were injured and/or died in World War I. Sometimes these databases can be complicated to use for those who don’t know Russian.

But this database can be searched in English! This website also has the original records for 1,068,811 men who served in the war.

Most soldiers have their full name (first, patronymic and surname); place of residence by region, neighborhood and village; military rank; religion; marital status and date of injury or death. Then, that information is listed with links to the original military records.

Here’s how to use this great resource: put the last name in the line for Фамилия, first and patronymic names in the line for Имя-отчеств, (You can’t just use patronymic name for this line.) and place of residence in the line for Место жительства. If you don’t get results when you include place of residence, remove the information.

If you can’t read Russian, copy and paste the results into Goggle Translate. The only material that can’t be translated into English is the military records linked next to Источник.

So go check out this wonderful resource. A wonderful discovery may be awaiting you.

Finally getting somewhere in a strange time

I finally have figured out which archive that could have my grandfather’s WWII military records- Central Military Archives of Ukraine in Kiev.

Talk about the wrong time to send a letter to archives in Kiev. I am hoping that by the time my letter arrives that the city will have some normalcy so I can finally get an answer on my grandfather’s military service.

I had assumed that since my grandfather served in the Red Army during World War II that all the records are still in Moscow. But since he was serving from Kiev, his hometown, it seems that Ukraine possesses his records.

A little more than a year ago, I learned the regiment where he served. I sent a letter to Russian Central Military Archives (ЦАМО Российской Федерации, ул. Кирова, д. 74, 142100, Московская обл., г. Подольск, Russia) back in January 2013.

The archives wrote a letter in April 2013, stating it did not have any records for that regiment. For some reason, the Russian Consulate General in New York City mailed this letter to me a few weeks ago.

So I am going to cross my fingers that my letter arrives at Ukrainian Central Military Archives (Галузевий державний архів Міністерства оборони України, вул. Бориспільська, 16, 02093, м. Київ) and the archives will find something on my grandfather. I don’t know about the chances that my grandfather’s records still exist.

He, his wife and baby daughter escaped Kiev in winter 1943 to southern Germany, thanks to my grandmother’s half-German ancestry. People in the Soviet Union were able to escape with the help of Germany if they could prove German ancestry.

It was bad enough that my grandfather was a POW of the German Army. Many Soviet soldiers were killed for being a POW so it was best for my grandfather to run for his life. His escape from a POW camp is another mystery.

I’ve heard that records of Soviets who were POWs or escaped the USSR were destroyed. My grandfather’s records also could have been destroyed by the terrible bombings of Kiev.

Unlike so many Americans, I don’t have letters from my grandfather to my grandmother while he served in the war nor photos of him in uniform. Some people are lucky enough to have relatives’ WWII uniforms and medals.

I don’t have a scrap of paper stating my grandfather served in the war that engulfed his hometown. My mother only has stories from her mother. I am hoping soon I can tell my mom about her father’s service in the Soviet Army.

Related post:

Getting closer to finding grandpa’s WWII military record

Persistence and patience pay off with Russian military archives

My grandmother had a habit of telling grand stories of her family. She claimed her brother Dimitri was rescued from the Persian Gulf while serving  in the navy before the Russian Revolution.

Thanks to persistence and patience, I am close to confirming this story. I sent a letter in March to the Russian State Archive of the Navy in St. Petersburg, asking for military service information on my grand uncle.

I provided my grand uncle’s full name, birth date, birthplace, parents’ names, place of address, estimated time of service and the specialized division where he served. It took me two years to collect all the information  I needed  from two archives, a museum and a library to make my request.

Russian military and other federal archives only will answer requests for information when they have detailed information. It is not enough to know your relatives’ full name, birth information and parents’ names. I had to learn this the hard way.

So now, I know that my grand uncle attended two aviation schools in 1915 and 1916, including the Baku School of Naval Aviation, from the archive’s e-mail message this month. Knowing that my grand uncle attended this school, now in Azerbaijan, explains how he could have been attacked  in the Persian Gulf, which is near Baku after going through western Iran.

The next step in this adventure is obtaining the three documents from the Russian State Archive of the Navy. It wants $18 US dollars for the document scans by sending money directly to its bank account. My bank only will send a minimum of $100 abroad so luckily I have cousins in St. Petersburg and Moscow who can help me pay the bill and then I will repay them using Western Union.

Once I obtain scans of the three available records, these documents will have more details that will help me further research my grand uncle’s military service. I am thrilled that the Russian State Archive of the Navy gave me enough details in its e-mail message that I can do some research online while I wait for the scans to arrive.

Getting closer to finding grandpa’s WWII military record

So many Americans can detail the service of their grandfathers in World War II.  All I can say is that my maternal grandfather served in World War II, became a POW of the occupying Germans in Kiev and came home several months after my mother was born.

I hope to have more concrete information in a few months from Russian military archives in Moscow. I finally found the name of my grandfather’s regiment, his title and service period on a historical record. There is much irony where I found this information.

I have the German government to thank for this information. My grandfather applied for German citizenship during the war because my grandmother was half-German. Germany encouraged people with German ancestry to immigrate to Germany during the war. Kiev was bombed out during the war, leaving not much hope for the future for my grandparents.

I tried unsuccessfully to get information on my grandfather’s service from Russian military archives two years ago. The archives will not give information on soldiers’ military service unless the regiment, title and service period are provided. It is not enough to know your relative’s full name, birth date, birthplace, parents’ names and wartime addresses.

Now my concern is whether the Germans documented my grandfather’s service properly on his EWZ file. Also, I wonder whether my grandfather lied about his service time so the Germans could not figure out he was a POW of their army.

Another complication is that my grandfather was a prisoner of the German army. To the USSR, this was a disgrace. My grandfather claimed he got released because he told the prison leaders that he was Ukrainian, not Russian. For some reason, the German army wanted to capture as many Russian soldiers as possible, according to my mother.

I wonder whether the Soviet government knew he was a POW. This could mean his military record was possibly destroyed as punishment. Another possible scenario is that his military record could have listed him as missing in action. Kiev was in chaos during the war and maybe the Soviet military did not document his POW status.

My grandparents applied for German naturalization in central Poland a month after Kiev was liberated. It would be interesting to know whether my family escaped during Kiev’s German occupation or after the liberation. Hopefully, the military archives will find my grandfather’s record and release details that will clear up the mystery around my family’s escape from the USSR.

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The address for military archives in Moscow is ЦАМО Российской Федерации, ул. Кирова, д. 74, 142100, Московская обл., г. Подольск, Russia

For more information on EWZ files, see EWZ- Three important letters and Making another breakthrough with EWZ files