The Desolation of Exile:
A Russian Family's Odyssey

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Germany played a significant role in my family history in a number of ways. My father, Gregory Bogdanov (he shortened his name later), was one of the millions of young people (Ostarbeiters) taken from Ukraine and shipped to work in Nazi Germany. He remained in Germany for a number of years after the war and lived in a Displaced Person's (DP) Camp near Hamburg called Fishcbeck. The first section of this page is a gallery of photos from those years (1946-1951). Many of the people in the photos have not been identified. If you have information or questions, please contact me at

My great-great grandmother (on my mother's side), Gertruda von Hopfgarten, was born in Germany (circa 1855). As far as I know she is the only German ancestor I have and she was a very interesting woman. She married my grandfather, Valerian Nikanorovich Nazariev, when she was very young, perhaps 19 or 20. He was 45 years old. She was his third wife. Nevertheless, they appeared to have had a very happy marriage and Gertruda seemed to have take to life in Russia. Unfortunately, I was not able to find out much about her family in my travels but below I include contemporary photos of Bad Pyrmont, Germany, the town where she lived and where they first met.

Nikolay Alexandrovich Ukhtomsky spent seven years in Germany and France between the two World Wars. Much of the time, he lived in Berlin. I found correspondence that describes his life and activities there and include it in my book.


Fischbeck DP Camp. Outside church service.

Crowd, probably at church service.

G. Bogdan at left. The man in the middle is Vadim Semenenko (identified by Alec G. V Semenenko was his mother's godfather).

Social gathering.

G. Bogdan at right with unidentified friend.

Unidentified woman. Photo is dated 1943.

Church procession, Fischbeck.

Fischbeck DP Camp.  Andrew Timofeev is 4th from the left, back row,next to woman in white scarf.

Nikifor  Nikiforov with white hair/mustache, in center with icon directly next to Priest on right.

Alexei Federow holding cross on right, front row, in suit (Identification per Maria Frantsova Welsh)
row,next to woman in white scarf.

Third person to the right of priest getting into VW is a Father Giorgi (with white/gray beard). Father Giorgi was the camp priest (information from William K.)

Fischbeck DP Camp Priest with congregation.

Russian Christian Youth Union, Fishcbeck DP camp. G. Bogdan in center, second row.

G. Bogdan in center. Others unidentified (1947).

At left, G. Bogdan (on the left) with two unidentified friends (1946). At right, G. Bogdan with unidentfied young woman (May 1947).

Photo of Sonya Sviritsova. Note on the back asks Gregory to remember her and their days in Hamburg, Germany...if "cruel fate" will dictate that they never meet again, he will at least have this image of her.
G. Bogdan with unidentified young woman at left. Unidentified person at right (Fischbeck).

G. Bogdan with friends. No date.

G. Bogdan, second from left, with three unidentified friends, Fischbeck, undated.

G. Bogdan (center front) with friends in Fischbeck.

G. Bogdan lunching with friends,, Germany.

Fischbeck social gathering.

Poing, Bavaria. YMCA group, 1948.

Poing, Bavaria, social event, YMCA group, 1948. G. Bogdan at far left, top row.

For more information about Nazi forced labor and post-war DP camps, visit

GERMANY 1943-1951

    The Red Army continued to advance west. Between September 22 and 30, Soviet troops had forced numerous crossings of the Dnieper between the Pripyat Marshes in Belarus and Zaporozhiye in Ukraine and, on October 23, Zaporozhiye was taken. Kiev fell to the Red Army on November 6. By this time Grigory was in Germany. 
In contradiction to all other information (including that of his U.S. immigration papers) according to his Displaced Persons (D.P.) Registration Card filled out in June of 1945, Grigory was born in Luck, Poland. Luck, now Lutsk, and a city in western Ukraine, was in Poland till the end of the 18th century, then was in Russia till World War I and again in Poland between the two World Wars. When Hitler and Stalin divided Poland between them in 1939, this area became part of the Ukrainian SSR.

    Yefim, in his D.P. registration card, stated that he was born in the city of Dubno (formerly in Poland and now also in western Ukraine). This insistence, among the D.P.'s, on being from Poland was common in 1945, as citizens of Poland would not be forcibly repatriated to the USSR, while many hapless Ukrainians were. Grigory, however, stated his desire to return to a "Democratic Poland" while his brother Yefim, wrote the USA as his desired destination. The necessity for Grigory to obscure details of his place of birth, his date of birth (and later his parents' names) no doubt also stemmed from the fear that this information would somehow fall into the hands of Soviet authorities who would then know that the Bogdanovs had a son or sons living abroad. And it was quite true that the Soviets took advantage of the Nazi penchant for record-keeping, seizing thousands of documents having to do with Soviet citizens who had been captured, shipped for labor, or murdered by the Nazis. This information was later used in the Soviet Union to persecute anyone who had fallen into Nazi hands, not just collaborators, but soldiers who were captured or civilians who were sent to forced labor camps. Even people who were simply living in a German-occupied area were viewed with suspicion for the rest of their lives... 


Train station at Hamburg-Neugraben

Location where there was a labor camp, now a residential area.


Monuments to all those who perished in WWII in the vicinity of the labor camps.


Размышления. Германия.
I took the train to Neugraben, a suburb just outside Hamburg. It was a short walk to the place where the Neugraben satellite camp had been. All signs of it and the foreign workers camp below it have been obliterated. It is now a pretty suburban residential neighborhood. The sunny, warm weather, the neatness and order and lovely large trees and green gardens made it seem impossible that thousands of people had been forcibly brought here or to places that look just like this now, forced to work in inhuman conditions, many of them simply killed, others worked to death. There is something to be said for moving on and I realize that not every spot in Germany where people were tortured or died can remain a monument to the dead but even a plaque would do. I read that there was plaque at Neugrabener Market plaza nearby that was dedicated to the women prisoners of the Neugraben satellite concentration camp. I tried to find it but could not and read later that it would get ripped out periodically. But on the road from the train station to the place where the foreign worker camp used to be, there is a monument to those who died in the war. One stone obelisk is dedicated to the fallen and the missing in action, another to all the men, women, and children who perished in the war from 1939 to 1945. It doesn't specify nationality so perhaps this is an attempt to simply honor all those who died needlessly in a war that was not of their choosing...


Old cemetery in Bad Pyrmont where I spent time trying to find members of the von Hopfgarten family (unsuccessfully).

Gertruda Karlovna von Hopfgarten
Гертруда Карловна вон Хопфгартен
...My curiosity for detailed information about Gertruda's origins in Germany was left unsatisfied. The only one of my recent ancestors who was not Russian by birth, she had traveled a long way to her new life and country. As I.V. Smirnova wrote in her essay about Kathleen Persi-Ffrench, when the history of noble families is documented, it is the activities, exploits, and military campaigns of the male members that are noted. Women are often left as a footnote or omitted entirely. Thus, I was always on the lookout for any description, however minor, that would help me understand the role of the women in the family history.

Gertruda's rather humble origins were also a barrier as most nobility is obsessed with maintaining accurate records of the family tree while for the rest of society, this wasn't necessarily as important or even possible. I found the same barriers when trying to research my father's family.
What I found most interesting about Gertruda, however, was that
she took to this life with such relish and enthusiasm. Though her life in Russia was by no means luxurious, she did go from being the daughter of a Prussian official to the wife of Russian noble. Nor could she have ever imagined that her friendship with Vladimir Lenin's mother would be a reason for her name to be mentioned in history books...

VALERIAN NAZARIEV AND GERTRUDA VON HOPFGARTEN married in Berlin in 1874. Their grandson, Nikolay Aleksandrovich Ukhtomsky,  later spent several years there, studying and working as a journalist.
Below: Postcards of old Berlin.

CHAPTER 15: BERLIN 1922-1929
From 1919-1923, Germany, and Berlin in particular, was the main population center of Russian emigration. Between two and three million people left Russia in the post-Revolution and Civil War periods. For many of them, Berlin was either a stopping place upon arrival in Europe or a destination point.[1]  By the end of 1919, approximately 70,000 Russians were living in Berlin alone and were arriving at a rate of more than 1,000 a month.[2] There were about 100,000 Russian émigrés in Germany as a whole that year.[3] A few brief years after a bloody war between the Russian and German Empires, a conflict which left both nations in ruins, both their governments and political structures were irrevocably changed. Russian refugees, among them large numbers of Russian military officers, including Nikolay Ukhtomsky, were arriving and settling in Germany.

By the autumn of 1920, the total number of Russian refugees in Germany may have been as many as 560,000, including individuals in transit to the United States or other European countries and war prisoners awaiting repatriation. In the spring of 1921, estimates of the total number of Russians living in Germany dropped to below 300,000 and at the beginning of 1922 to less than 250,000. After a rise to nearly half a million again in 1922-23, when émigrés moved to Germany from France because of Germany's lower cost of living, there was a general exodus from Germany in 1923 to France, Czechoslovakia, the Balkans, Soviet Russia and elsewhere, caused mainly by the collapse of the mark and the worsening political situation in Germany.[4]


By some estimates there were 360,000 Russians in Berlin alone in 1922, with one in ten Berlin residents being a Russian émigré.[5]

[1] A.N. Popov, Russky Berlin (Russian Berlin) p, 132.

[2] R. Williams, p. 111.

[3] Popov, p. 132.

[4] R. Williams, p. 111.

[5] Popov, p. 132.

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