Olga Borochina

Memphis, Tennessee

Born: 1927 Mogilev-Podolskiy, Ukraine

Survivor: Mogilev-Podolskiy Ghetto

“In 1941, when Germany invaded, my mother, sister, and I were headed to Moscow. When we reached the train station, we were not allowed to board.” Within a week, recalls Olga Borochina, “everything changed. We had to wear Star of David patches on our clothing, post signs in front of our houses; we lost our jobs. We couldn’t walk our own sidewalks or visit the grocery stores. Not even our Christian neighbors would talk to us anymore.”

The rabbis prepared a welcome: “They brought the Germans bread and salt hoping they would be spared violence, but the Germans responded by shaving their beards and making them eat dirt.” All of this came as a shock to Olga, who had experienced little anti-Semitism growing up in Ukraine. Olga’s father, a physician in the Soviet army, was away on duty when their town was occupied.

The Germans created a ghetto by walling off a third of the city, forcing Jews to live in farm buildings. Olga says, “I lived there with my mother, sister, and grandparents in an open barn with goats. We had no walls and the snow would pile up inside. We burned anything we could find.” They lived there for three years. Her grandparents died from the cold. Olga recalls, “One day my sister and I heard that a mobile extermination squad was headed in our direction. We dug a hole and hid in it. We were there for three days.” They were still in the hole when liberation came.

Today, Olga says, “It is hard for others to believe what we experienced. People do need to know. If nothing else, it might help them understand they can overcome anything.”