The Desolation of Exile:
A Russian Family's Odyssey

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My father, Grigory Kondratievich Bogdanov, was born in the Ukrainian SSR in a village called Sidorovo-Yaruga in 1926. This page includes contemporary photos and video of the area where he was born (now Sumskaya Oblast in Ukraine). The videos were all taken with my father in mind. Since he was unable to travel himself, I was trying to bring his homeland to him. These are short outtakes from the original videos (tapes made in 2001 and converted to digital format). For other contemporary photos of Ukraine, visit my blog at
There is only one pre-World War II photo of an unidentified woman (not a Bogdanov family member as far as I can tell)  and therefore may be the only photo that Gregory  brought from Ukraine.

In 2005, my cousin's husband, Igor, videotaped the area around Sidorovo-Yaruga and encountered a woman at the cemetery there who said she had known the Bogdanovs and that Gregory (aka Grisha) had even courted her. Could she be the woman in this photograph?


Water source in Sidorovo Yaruga.

Graves of Gregory Bogdan's sister Yevdokia (Dunya) Kondratievna and his parents, Kondrat Nikolayevich and Agafia Ivanovna, Sidorovo Yaruga village cemetery.
Sidorovo-Yaruga video part 1 and part 2.


Looking down at Volnoye from a hill.

Volnoye homestead.

The road running through it.
Video of Volnoye.


Yamnoye homestead

Yamnoye homestead yard.
Video of Yamnoye.


The city of Romny.


Watch video of extended family gathering (2001).


            In 2001, Ukraine was in the midst of its post-Soviet rebirth. Unfortunate reminders of the oppressive Soviet state remained in places like Kharkov Airport, where, when I arrived, I became convinced that that would be my final and only destination in Ukraine. I flew on Tyrolean Air from Vienna to get to Kharkov and I was the only woman traveling alone. Mid-flight, a passenger leaned over from across the aisle and said in Russian, “Lady, lady, there is water dripping on your jacket.”  Lost in my musings about what awaited me upon landing, I was startled to see that there was condensation dripping from the airplane ceiling. The helpful passenger, in discussing it with his seatmate, decided that it was faulty air conditioning. I smiled vaguely in thanks and moved my jacket and then looked out the window to discourage conversation. Though friendly, he looked scruffy, and too eager to get acquainted. I chose to ignore him.

            Upon landing in Kharkov, our plane was met by very official looking uniformed passport control officers. I found it odd that they demanded our passports at the foot of the ladder as we descended from the aircraft since passport control was inside the building. I suppose that if a certain passport didn’t come up to their standards, the passenger would be sent back up the flight of stairs to the airplane. It is always disconcerting to be greeted by officials in military uniform (US Customs and Immigration officials where blue uniforms so it is more reminiscent of law enforcement. And they usually don't wear hats). Whatever expectations you may have of a country, a military uniform always sends warning signals that any misstep could be unpleasant. These young men, who were slight and thin, all wore the huge Soviet-style military caps that overshadowed everything about them. The hats seemed abnormally large and made the top half of their bodies seem out of proportion to the rest. This could have been comical but the officials looked grim, as if they were fully expecting to find trouble in this group of assorted Ukrainians and foreigners...

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