2 August 2020
Holocaust survivor and former soldier of the Red Army
Commemoration speech on the occasion of 2 August 2020, Holocaust Memorial Day for Sinti and Roma
I am Bilashchenko Ivan Korniyovych. I was born in Dmitrovka village in 1926. In 1941 the War started and everyone – youngsters and adults heard what the War is. At the age of 17 I was mobilized for the War. As usual you had to be 19 for mobilization but there was not enough people of that age and you could be taken from 17. So at the age of 17 I went to the War together with peers like me.
We had to fulfil our duty while protecting our motherland. I used to see a lot of horror during the War – death and other cases.
It is necessary to save memory! Extremely necessary to safe. Not to allow things happen again. You have to know that a war it’s not a joyful time. People there were sent to death. Nowadays people shoot each other hiding from the corner, at that time people were killed openly on their way to fight. It was terrifying. Those who did not want to fight could be killed by own party members. You had to do what your commander told you. God forbids, it happens again, because we all have children and grandchildren.
To youngsters I would like to wish great friendship. That everyone be happy and friendly. They have to know, that people who did not experience sadness lives with difficulties. When person faced with horror or at least could hear about it from older generations, it helps so much to appreciate life. People shouldn’t think only about current day. You have to listen experienced people, who want to transfer their knowledge to younger generations with aim to prevent sorrow and war, to make people be openminded and friendly. What is the most valuable? The friendship of nation. It means a lot. For example, nowadays we are divided into good and bad sides. What is the kind of life is it? We are living in a time where Roma and non-Roma facing each other and all of us have to be equal and friendly!
Ivan Bilaschenko was born in Dmitrovka Zolotonosha, a district in the region of Poltava, Ukraine in 1926. He firstly went to school in 1934. Before the war broke out in 1941, he had finished his school days in the 7th grade because he joined the Komsomol (Communist Youth Organization). When the German occupants started with Roma mass murder, he was sure that he would be shot as well. One day the “Starosta” (the head of the village) received an order from the Gestapo. His task was to cleanse ethnically the village from the „gypsies“ which ment sending them to death. But the Starosta denied that order because he was a friend of Ivan’s family. Instead he helped them to gather some valuables, such as gold, to convice the Gestapo commandant that he should not deport the Bilaschenkos. After that attempt, Ivan should be sent to Germany to do forced labor but he manged to escape on the journey to Germany. When he returned home, he was drafted by the Red Army at the age of 17 years and he was engaged in several important battles. He has received several awards for his military service.