Arbeitskarte Sacharij Kistetschok

That’s Zakhariy Kistechok.

Born in February 1911 in Smolyn, Galicia, western Ukraine.

A small village where people from many different cultures lived together.

Smolyn, Galizien, Westukraine

Most of the people who lived in Smolyn were Greek Catholics. Like Zakhariy.

They spoke Ruthenian, Polish, and German. During the Second World War, the village was first occupied by the Soviet army and then, in June 1941, by the German Wehrmacht. In 1945, it became part of the Soviet Union. Today, Smolyn is located in Ukraine.

We don’t know much about him.


But we do know that his mother was called Anna.

Bestätigung Anna Kistetschok

And that he only went to school for a few years – perhaps in the nearest larger town, Rava-Ruska.

Rawa Ruska Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas

He was 28 years old when the war came.

The German occupiers were recruiting young workers for the Reich with empty promises.

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München/Bildarchiv/Heinrich Hoffmann.

Zakhariy applied for official papers issued in German.

Bestätigung Anna Kistetschok
One of Zakhariy’s documents includes the word “Jänner” – the Austrian word for January – a reminder of the influence Austria had on the region in the past.

By May 1942 at the latest, the Nazis had stopped recruiting people.

Illustration Bundesarchiv, Plak 003-042-008
The Reich Ministry of Labor used false promises of fair wages and security to lure people away from the occupied territories. But the letters they wrote to their families back home told a different story. The number of “volunteers” decreased.

Instead, they deported people against their will.

Kiew Hauptbahnhof Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R70660
If villages did not deliver the required number of workers, the Nazis carried out raids and abducted them. Many of them were women and young people – often all the people born in a specific year were taken. German employment offices decided where they would be sent to work.

Zakhariy was sent to Bavaria as a civilian forced laborer.

Karte Bayern

Zakhariy’s work documents sometimes identify him as Ukrainian. And sometimes as Polish.

Kürzel P für Pole
Zakhariy’s “P” for Polish was important, because the Nazis treated people differently depending on their nationality: Poles were treated slightly better than Ukrainians, they often worked on farms and received slightly higher wages. But no forced laborers were treated well.


Arbeitskarte Sacharij Kistetschok
Civilian forced laborers had to carry a labor card with them at all times. It served as their identity card, and in an emergency, it could even save their life. Without a labor card, they could get into serious trouble.

His workbook tells us what happened to him next:

First he was a farm worker. Then an unskilled worker in a sawmill in Rott am Inn.

Later, he worked at the Prüller dairy farm in Feldkirchen, Wasserburg.

His places of work were only a few kilometers apart.

Zakhariy stayed in one and the same area until he died.

He saved money that was never returned to him or his family.

Arbeitskarte R
Civilian forced laborers could pay in a portion of their wages with the (false) promise that the money would later be given back to them with interest. During the entire time he spent in Germany, Zakhariy paid in 25 Reichsmarks.

But the promise of wages and security was nothing more than a lie.

Zakhariy’s wallet also contained three postcards.

It was difficult for civilian forced laborers in different parts of Germany to write to each other; their letters were subject to censorship, and it was only possible for them to exchange letters sporadically.

From his brother Mychajlo. Or perhaps his half-brother?

Zakhariy kept the letters in the safest place he could – on his person.

They must have been very valuable to him.

In the spring of 1943, Zakhariy spent two weeks in hospital in Wasserburg.

Tabelle Rot
Civilian forced laborers had to have health insurance. Employers often withheld part of their wages to pay for it. But if they fell ill or got injured, the treatment they received was still not as good as the treatment given to German patients.

He was discharged on 8.5.43 with a note that read “better and able to work.”

We know that he needed passport photos at the beginning of 1944.

Zakhariy was not allowed to go to the photographer without official permission.


Civilian forced laborers were not allowed to travel freely. Polish and Soviet forced laborers needed written permission to use public transport, otherwise they could be arrested.

He probably borrowed a clean suit especially for the photos.

Portrait Sacharij Kistetschok

He told Mychajlo he’d send him a photo, but he never did.


In March 1944, he received a new workbook.

He would only need it for a few weeks.

Zakhariy died in hospital in Wasserburg am Inn on March 31, 1944.


Sterbeurkunde Sacharij Kistetschok / Wasserburg am Inn

Cause of death “Bruises to the head, fractured skull.”


But what was the truth behind this official cause of death?

Was it an accident at work? Or was he a victim of violence?

A list of foreigners in Wasserburg cited “kidney failure” as the cause of his death.

We don’t know what really happened.

Zakhariy was buried in the municipal cemetery “Im Hag” on April 1, 1944.

Lageplan städtischer Friedhof im Hag Stadtarchiv Wasserburg a. Inn, VR1014‐a (=Gräberplan Altstadtfriedhof, Im Hag 7). Kennzeichnung Grabstelle Sacharij Kistetschok, M.Haupt.

His grave was reused in the 1960s.

Today, a memorial plaque in the cemetery commemorates the forced laborers who were buried there.

Gedenktafel Gedenktafel auf dem Friedhof in Wasserburg

Zakhariy’s wallet turned up in the Area Child Care Officer’s office in Munich in 1950.


A chance find. No one knows how it got there.

It’s the only clue we have to Zakhariy’s fate.

The Ukrainian Red Cross managed to trace Lidija, his brother Mychajlo’s daughter, in 2019.

Mychajlos Tochter Lidija


Mychajlos Tochter Lidija

Zakhariy’s possessions were returned to his family 75 years after his death.

For Lidija, these mementoes are a precious treasure. She wishes Mychajlo could have been there to receive them.

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