Russian-American WWII POW Visits UNH Honors Class
Russian-American WWII POW Visits UNH Honors Class

by Brandon T. Bisceglia ‘14
UNH Today Contributing Writer

One day in 1941, Vladimir Lvovich Wologodzew – who now goes by Walter Wolog – was rowing with his twin brother on a lake near Pskov, Russia, when two low-flying German plans came over the water toward them, machine guns blazing.

It turned out that the planes weren’t aiming at them, but at a Russian truck on a nearby bridge. The Germans threw bombs at the truck but missed, instead blowing up a house behind it.

That was Wolog’s first encounter with the World War II German war machine – a machine that would take him prisoner from Communist Russia and start him on an eventual journey to the United States.

Walter Wolog '73

Wolog, now 90, shared his story with honors students for a class called “Stories of Displaced Lives: Russian and Eastern European Memoirs in Exile” that is led by Daria Kirjanov-Mueller, a practitioner-in-residence for the modern languages program.

Wolog, who went on to earn a degree in mechanical engineering from UNH in 1973, told the students that his travails didn’t begin with the war. He had already lost his father three years earlier while living in Moscow to Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge, in which millions of Russians were exiled to Siberia or executed to satisfy the dictator’s paranoid suspicions.

During the purge, said Wolog, “people couldn’t sleep at night. They listened for cars.”

After Wolog’s capture, he was transferred to various work camps and wound up in the American sector of Germany at the end of the war. He eventually moved to New York in the 1950s and has lived in the U.S. ever since.

“The U.S. is the only country that I felt was open to possibilities, to make a career, where I would not be a second-class citizen,” he said.

Jessica Zielinski '16, a sustainability studies major, said it was fascinating to hear about Wolog’s daily life as a child in a Communist apartment block.

“I think UNH should invite more people from generations previous to ours to share their insights before they are lost to history,” she said.

Ian Soderlund ’18, a forensic science major, agreed. “You get a more in-depth, personal account of what happened. You get to put yourself right there.”

Kirjanov-Mueller said the bond that speakers such as Wolog make with students is irreplaceable.

“They are transported with him to a real experience in the past,” she said, “and this helps them make some sense of the larger historical context and, hopefully, of the present. Hearing such stories from people who lived them leads to empathy.”

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