Children of the enemy: why does the Austrian daughter of a Soviet soldier still looking for her father

Children born shortly after World War II in Austria from Soviet soldiers, had a difficult fate. However, years of humiliation and discrimination did not discourage some of them from wanting to find their Russian father.

© Anatoly Grigoriev Source: Sputnik
© Anatoly Grigoriev Source: Sputnik
After the Second World War in Austria , about 30,000 children were born from the soldiers of the winning troops, according to some estimates . Almost half of them were fathers of Soviet soldiers.

The authorities of the USSR, unlike the allies, did not allow their soldiers to marry local women, so in most cases these relations were initially doomed. Soldiers and officers were sent back to the USSR, and in principle they could not take care of their children who appeared as a result of such unions. Children, however, were not simply fatherless, but bore the label “children of occupation” or “children of the enemy”.

They had to go through a lot, and most tried to hide their origin and not draw attention to it.

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But attitudes toward the “children of enemies” in Austria began to change thanks to Eleonora Dupuy. She not only decided to find her Russian father, but she did it publicly.

“He was a good man.”
“All that my mother knew about her father was that he was from Kalinin [present Tver] and his name was Mikhail Groman or Grossman,” said Eleonora Dupuy, an Austrian who has been looking for her Russian father for the last twenty years.

During many years of searching, Eleanor had to come to Russia several times, send endless requests to the archives, meet with officials, and carry out DNA tests. She corresponded with many different people and even participated in television programs. Over the years, Eleanor found ten people, each of whom could have been her father, however, none of them ended up as a result. Not so long ago, Eleanor published a book about her search.

The story of Eleanor began immediately after the war. Her mother lived in the town of St. Pölten, where in the early summer of 1945, Eleanor’s parents met. Two Soviet soldiers passed near the garden, where her mother worked, and asked her for water and fruit. One of them, Michael, returned the next day with bread, which was very scarce after the war. He also offered his help. “There was a lot of hard work in the garden, and he brought us as much bread as he could. He was a good person, and so you appeared, ”mother told Eleonora in 1955, when the occupation forces were withdrawn from Austria.

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© Boris Antonov Source: Sputnik
© Boris Antonov Source: Sputnik
A few months after the beginning of the romance of Eleanor’s mother with the Soviet soldier, he was sent to the hospital, as an old wound on her leg reminded of herself and the threat of amputation arose. At this time, Eleanor’s mother was in the second month of pregnancy, but Michael did not know about it. He never returned to St. Pölten, and in April 1946, Eleanor was born.

Started with pride about the forbidden
Eleanor knew almost nothing about her father when she began her search in the late 1990s. Despite all her efforts, she had not moved far along this path, but after a few years her personal history became public knowledge and began to change her ideas about the recent past of the country.

The fact is that until the 2000s, the question of children born to soldiers of the occupying powers, especially from the Soviet military, was not discussed in Austria either in public or in the family circle. “Often the question of parents [of children born of Soviet soldiers] was kept secret. The theme of the fatherhood of Soviet soldiers was taboo, and the mother did not want to say anything to her children about this … The stigmatization of the children of Soviet soldiers was tougher than in the case of other “children of occupation”, ”wrote Barbara Shteltsl-Marks, director of one of her works. Austrian Institute for the Study of the Effects of War. Ludwig Boltzmann.

The researcher helped bring the story of Eleonora Dupuy to the attention of scientists and ordinary Austrians. However, her story became noticeable not only because it broke through the existing veil of silence, but also because Eleonora Dupuy spoke about her past in an unusual way for the Austrians – with pride.

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© Eleonora Dupuy
© Eleonora Dupuy
“Eleonora became the first person to say that she was proud of her Russian father, who liberated Austria from Nazism, and she would find him,” said Olga Pavlenko, vice-rector of the RSUH, who organized several meetings of the Austrians with her Russian relatives. “And gradually the attitude of the Austrians towards people like Eleanor began to change,” the researcher adds.

“The more they learned, the more they respected.”
According to Eleonora Dupuy herself, the Austrians began to treat “Russian children” differently when they became acquainted with their stories. “The more they learned about us, the more they respected. We were admired for understanding who we became after a difficult and pitiful childhood, ”she says. At the same time, they began to be more often called “children of liberation”, emphasizing the importance of such a moment in their personal stories as the victory over Nazism.

Stories of “Russian children” do look scary sometimes. “Many of my Austrian“ colleagues, ”especially those who lived in the villages, were discriminated against. It was terrible. Many do not want to talk about it, ”- emphasizes Eleanor. She recalls the story of Monica: “She had a stepfather who was a former Nazi. Can you imagine it? This “Russian child” was treated disgustingly, which is why she has suffered all her life. ”

The history of Monica’s childhood was continued today. With the help of Eleonora Dupuy, she found her father, who was 92 years old. However, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and could not recognize his daughter.

Love and violence
At the same time, the life story of Eleanor herself in post-war Austria was not grim. Nobody humiliated her, although her neighbors knew about her Russian father.

Eleanor herself personally knows about 20 “Russian children.” Most of the acquaintance stories of their parents look quite romantic: there was love between Austrian women and Soviet soldiers.

© Boris Antonov Source: Sputnik
© Boris Antonov Source: Sputnik
However, she is aware of two cases of rape. But even in these cases, children born as a result of acts of violence would like to know their fathers. “One of them, a man, says that he would like to meet with his Soviet father, claiming that he was not against him, since such were the circumstances:“ Who knows. What did he experience during the war and what did he see? ”

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Eleonora, commenting on such situations, stresses that “one cannot compare [the way the Red Army dealt with the local population in Austria] with how the Russians were treated during the war” by the Germans and the Austrians when hundreds of cities and villages were destroyed in the USSR.

“Among the horrors of war there are no pastoral paintings. – Violent incidents occurred in the first months after the end of the war, Pavlenko stresses. – However, the command of the Red Army soon gave strict orders demanding to shoot those who were found to be looting and violence. Even Western historians are forced to admit that by the fall of 1945, a wave of post-war violence had been successfully suppressed. ”

“I still have hope.”
The energy and determination of Eleonora, as well as the help of Austrian historians, attracted to the fate of the “children of liberation”, who were looking for their Russian fathers, the attention of the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sergey Lavrov. He promised to help, since in most cases it is very difficult to find people with only very limited information, and the usual procedure of archive queries is not very effective.

Eleonora took part in the action “Immortal regiment” on Victory Day in Moscow. © Eleonora Dupuy
Eleonora took part in the action “Immortal regiment” on Victory Day in Moscow. © Eleonora Dupuy
Of those 20 “Russian children” whom Eleanor knows, 11 have already found their Russian fathers. “And I still have hope. Otherwise, you just need to give up on it, ”she says. However, regardless of the final result of her search, Eleanor found her “second homeland” – Russia.

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