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Rena's Memories


This project began with my desire to document my mother’s stories – partly for my own interest and also so future generations can understand and learn from their connection to the past. I started by transcribing recordings I made of my mother from 1993 till 2019. Having no specific objective when I made the recordings, my approach was haphazard and I ended up with more than one version of some of the stories. After considerable effort I was able to construct an acceptable narrative out of this material and I published it on this web site. I tried to do as little rewriting as possible because I wanted my mother's voice to shine through.

As I was preparing to publish my materials on the web, I came across a paper that my mother wrote in college about the Nazi occupation of Kiev. There were many vivid details too important to leave out and too difficult for me to splice in without loosing the immediacy of my mother’s voice. I placed this college paper before the other materials in its entirety even though some of the stories are repeated later on.

A few months after the product of my efforts was published on this web site, my mother handed me some notebooks she wrote in 1986. I was sure that I had never seen them before, but to my surprise I found some slips of paper inside the notebooks with questions written by a much younger version of myself. So much for my own memory! The material from 1986 was too valuable to leave out so I spliced in. This major reworking of the material was much more difficult than my original effort. If some sections are disjointed, this is the reason and I am the one to blame.

These are the memories of a girl who has added many years since the events that shaped her life. Some details have been forgotten or not quite accurately remembered. In the Soviet Union official news was doubted and the local gossip may have been incorrect. Sometimes I add some details from my research which contradict the story. What people thought at the time is important so I didn’t remove all inaccuracies.  Sometimes details are missing because my grandparents didn’t share this information with my mother – either to protect her (it was safer for her to not know certain details) or just because she was still young.

People and Places

People and Places

The name Bobbi will alway refers to my grandmother, Pauline Shugaevsky (Russian: Polina Shugaevskaya, Ukrainian Shuhayevskaya - the transliteration can vary - note the feminine ending as compared with my grandfather’s name below). Bobbi is short for Bobushka, (бабушка), Russian for grandma. Since the stories were told to me, my mother often uses “Bobbi” for her mother (my grandmother). Friends and family addressed my grandmother as "Lina".

Similarly, Dedushka, (Дедушка), which means means grandpa in Russian, refers to my mother’s father, (my grandfather - not her grandfather). After emigrating he spelled his name a few different ways, but finally settled on Valentine Shuhayevsky (the Ukrainian pronunciation). This initially created some confusion in doing research on the internet (I had been unaware of this spelling).


The letter in Cyrillic script which is pronounced like a “G” in Russian is pronounced like an “H” in Ukrainian. I now spell his first name as Valentin (without the final e), because in English, the last syllable of Valentine rhymes with fine.  In Russian it rhymes with seen.

When my mom uses refers to “Dad” she means my father, her husband, Luke Ocone. My mother’s name is Ariadna, but is known as Rena. In my writing I sometimes use her birth name.

Place names are mostly transcribed as my mother said them and are usually the Russian pronunciations. Lvov, Kiev, and Chernigov are now Lviv, Kyiv, and Chernihiv in current day Ukraine. Sometimes the word “Russian” is used to describe a Soviet citizen when the person might be a different ethnicity such as Ukrainian.

I found it easiest to sometimes include my voice in the story. Italicized paragraphs represent my questions or responses or sometimes the questions of someone else who was present. Sections within reduced margins or separated by boxes are my additions.

V&P 1945_1.jpg

Valentin and Pauline Shugaevsky. Photo taken in Prague, 1945

Version History

Version History

With the realization that this project is ongoing, I am starting a version history. Check here to see any changes since your last visit.


The first major rewrite (which includes Rena’s notes from 1986) is complete and up on the web. Some of the earlier pages have been up for several weeks.


Added a quote ​before the subtitle The Bombing of Prague. Other minor corrections have been made since 12/12/2020 - mostly to correct mistakes and clarify the story.


I added a box and a quote at the very bottom of the Part 4 (School) about the Russian gentry and the French language


I added a box to Part 13 with information about the Nazi Hunger Plan. 


Some minor changes to Part 14 "Hiding a Jew" for clarification


On page Part 14, A box with a quote about the consequences of hiding a Jew added

Viewing with a cell phone

Viewing the site with a cell phone

All the text and most (but not all) of the images and captions can be seen with a cell phone. A computer screen will give a better experience.

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