Missing in Siberia: A Ukranian Story

The name of my immigrant ancestor was Andre Semlanoi and he was my grandfather. He spoke French, English, Ukranian, Polish, Russian and German. He was born in 1916 in Kharkow in the Ukraine on a farm. It was hard for him because he lived on a farm. So it was rural, not urban.


Artefact: Mortuary Card

In 1932 the communists took over the Ukraine and took all the land away from the people.Seven million Ukrainians died. Andre’s father, my Great grandpa Paulo Semlanoi, lost his farm and was sent to a Siberian prison. Another word for where he was sent in Siberia is the Gulag. There were more than eighteen million people that went to the Gulag from 1929 to 1953. My great-grandfather’s crime was owning land. People were sent to Siberia because the government wanted to take their land away.

My grandpa Andre was 16 years old when his father was sent to Siberia. Andre and his sister Halyna were sent to a communist prison school! That was the last time my grandpa saw his sister. After five years great-grandpa Paulo returned from Siberia but he couldn’t come within 100 kilometres of his old farm.

Finally, it was 1937 and my Grandpa Andre went into the Russian army. He was taken prisoner by the German army and then he escaped and went to the French resistance army. He lived in France after the war until 1952. Then he came to Canada. Andre left all of his family behind and did not keep in touch with them and it was very hard for him.

Andre came to Canada by sea. He travelled by a boat which is called an ocean liner. On this voyage he was alone. He was sad and alone. He met other Ukranian people and became friends but then he had to go on.

Andre came here to live in Canada and to also find a job. He did not care what he did for a living. He just needed money for food and shelter. He chose Canada because he wanted a new start in life. When he came to Canada he started off in Toronto, then he settled in Montreal for a couple of years and after that he moved to Ontario where he spent the remainder of his life.

My grandfather died on January 1st and his funeral was on January 5th, 2008.

Author: Sparky829

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34 responses to “Missing in Siberia: A Ukranian Story

  1. This was a very moving story. I liked the flow of it. I’m happy your grandfather survived all those terrible moments of his life. I found the story very touching because he lost his sister and his way of life.



  3. I was moved by your story.He was lucky to have lived through so many horrors in his life,
    and to have been able to find a good place to start a life again.It was also surprising that evevn after being in a government prison,your grandfather joined the Russsian army.

  4. I read your article and I find that your ancestors have been through lots of hard times like prison and communist schools.I am very sorry your grandpa died last year.

  5. It must have been hard for your grandfather to not see his family for a long period of time. What kind of crime is that to own a land.

  6. Hi it must of been hard for your grandfather to leave all his family behind.I know I wouldn’t have been able to leave them all behind.I liked your article.I found it good.Sorry for your grandfather’s death.

  7. I feel really bad for Andre.My grandmother had gone threw the same thing that Andre did because she also lived in Ukraine.I hope he then lived a good life.

  8. That must of been the hardest thing ever for your grand-pa being captured by Germans your sister in a communist prison.I feel really sorry for Andre it must have been hard for your mom.

  9. Your grandfather spoke a lot of different languages. It most of been hard for him losing his shelter, and being sent to a prison school at such a young age.. This article was very touching. To be honest, I thought that this article was very interesting, and I would have loved to read more.

  10. Your story really moved me p.s. I really like your picture

  11. I find that this adventure your grandfather got should of been really sad. He first of all lost his Dad then lost his sister. It should of been really hard for him. I feel really sad for him.

  12. My grand father also died in January but January 3. I would like to know if u were close to your great grand father ??? Sadly I never knew my grand father he died when i was not even born sometimes I wish i could of met him. Your great great grand fathers story is very touching he sounds like a very brave man .

  13. You have a really good article & I’m sorry about your grand father. You must of had a lot of pain but everyone dies someday .You have a great article.

  14. I loved your article. It was well written and I can relate to you because my father is in the U.S army.
    Like your grandfather my father might get sent to Iraq,but your grandfather actually got sent into battle.

  15. Wow I have never read a true story so interesting.
    It is sad but happy because he got captured by the german army lost all of his family
    and started a new life happely.

    • umm excuse me, but how can it be happy if he got captured by germany and lostall of his family!

      • Hi Sparky – it’s nice to hear from you and I hope you are having a good time in high school. I miss you.
        You’re asking a very big question there. Part of growing up is going through some tough times – though of course your grandfather had tougher times than most people do.
        My answer would be that at some point we find a way to tuck that sadness away and go on with our lives – especially if we go on to have children and grandchildren. We gain great happiness in their happiness. It doesn’t mean the sadness goes away – it just means that the sadness is balanced out.
        Did your grandfather “do good” in his life? Yes,he did. So in the end that probably gave him great comfort.

  16. Wow! This is really an amazing story. Your Grandfather was really a strong man to have lived through this because many people would have given up and wouldn’t have had the force and the courage to do what your Grandfather did.Your Grandfather is the proof that when you believe everything can happen.

    • thank you, you are so kind ! but did you know all this all started becuase world war 2 and hitler ! you ask your teacher for more information

  17. I thought your story was wonderful!! It shows that you put a lot of time and effort to make a good story.It must have been interesting learning about your grandfather and your great grandfather.It’s sad to learn about what happened to your great grandfather and your grandfather but at least your grandfather has had a peaceful life after he came back to Canada.

    • Thank you! I really loved this project, because it talks about my family and its past, my grand father met my grand mother when he came to montreal and he married her and he had 3 children.

  18. Thats a sad story.I feel sorry for him.I thought it was amazing that he learned so many languages.

  19. It is so sad that he never got to see his family again I would hate leaving my family. Like alot of other people I was moved and your grandpa went through many hardships I cant imagine going through that.

  20. It must of been hard to go away from every thing he had in the Ukranian and to know that you are never going to see our family.

  21. What a moving story! Keep up the great work – you are doing such a wonderful job! The world needs more young genealogists like you!

  22. Your grandfather spoke a lot of languages. You where lucky to have a grandfather like that. I am sorry about your grandfather. You have a good article.

  23. hi I’m Razl. I your grandfather was lucky and not lucky . the lucky thing was that he spoke so much languages, and the bad/sad thing was his father got taken away.

  24. Hi Im olivia your grandpa’s story is very interesting to learn about because of all things he did.

  25. Your story was really touching, im really sorry that your grand-father died. Your grand-father is really strong to have lived threw that horrible time. He is really brave to have continued his life.

  26. Wow he speaks allot of languages.This is a very sad story.
    I am very sorry for you sparky829.I wish that nobody dies.

  27. I think that was a sad story about your grandfather. how did he learn all those languages did he go to all over the world? I’m sorry for your grandfather sparky829. 😦

    • um actually, yes he did , he had to go to many places to escape the war and by doing so he had to learn how to speak the different types of languages from the countries he was in.

  28. Hi, I just read your post and I thought is was very sad for you, your grandpa,your grandpas sister,and your grand grandpa.Your grandpa learned alot of languages.I wonder where your grandpa learned
    all these languages.I only speak French,English and Spanish.

  29. thank you everyone for all of the kind,awsome and great coments bie!

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