| Living Through a Century: Russian Immigrant
Honored With Book Based on her War Memories
Suhs, Mardi. "Living Through a Century: Russian Immigrant Honored With Book Based on her War Memories." Cadillac News,
13 December 2006.
photographer, Cadillac News
Ann Fackler of Cadillac helps her 100-year-old mother,
Nina Katschalin, open presents on her birthday Tuesday. Katschalin
lived through the Russian Revolution, World War II and emigrated
to the United States via Ellis Island.
CADILLAC - A survivor of the Russian revolution is alive and well
and living in Cadillac.
Not only did Nina Katschalin survive Bolshevism and Stalin's communists,
she lived through the Nazi siege of Leningrad and survived fleeing
war-torn Russia into Germany, where an Allied bombing raid hit their
apartment building, turning their home into burning rubble.
After living through the major atrocities of the 20th century,
Nina Katschalin now lives a quiet life in Cadillac, where she plays
cards with girlfriends and enjoys the friendship of her daughter,
Ann Fackler, her son-in-law Bob and grandson Robert Reincke.
To mark her 100th birthday, Reincke, 43, gave his grandmother a
book he authored that details the horrific travails of her life.
a Past Life was written as a tribute to Nina's life and
to preserve three generations of his family's legacy.
Born 100 years ago in St. Petersburg, Russia, Nina began life as
a privileged and wealthy member of the Russian elite.
Her grandfather was a general in the Czar's Russian Army and the
family spent idyllic summers at their lake house in Finland.
But history was about to unleash a series of horrors upon the 20th
Century, and fate placed Nina at the center of every storm.
Nina's journey through history's hell began with the Russian revolution
when the communists assassinated one of her uncles and her father
was exiled to Siberia. Although he returned, he was exiled two more
times before his assassination under Stalin in 1937.
As a young woman Nina married Nicholas Katschalin, an engineer,
and the couple had a daughter, Ann, in 1938. In 1941 Germany attacked
the Soviet Union and Nazi troops surrounded Leningrad (St. Petersburg)
in a siege that lasted 900 days and caused the starvation deaths
of 641,000 people, half of the population. Nina's brother was one
of those who died, and Ann recalled that when her uncle came to
their home for a piece of bread, they had to turn him away. They
were eating shoe leather and had nothing to offer him.
After fleeing Russia they were placed in a displaced persons camp
and were finally removed after Nina's mother, who lived in Berlin,
pulled some strings.
Thinking that the family had found refuge was a mistake. Nina's
sister, who suffered from schizophrenia, was put to death in a Nazi
hospital, as were many Germans who were deemed unfit. The family
also endured nightly Allied bombing raids until finally their apartment
building was hit and destroyed.
After the war, the family immigrated to the United States, sponsored
by a family in Huron County. Highly educated, both Nina and her
husband Nicholas worked as draftsmen in Detroit.
Ann said her mother was thrilled with the book and that the process
of writing it brought the family close together.
When asked how living through so many tragedies affected her mother's
life, Ann replied: She does not dwell on bad things, Ann said.
Your local connection
Nina Katschalin's life story was recently published in a book titled,
a Past Life. Written by her grandson, author Robert Reincke
of Los Angeles, the book recounts the family's history of surviving
some of the worst atrocities of the first half of the 20th Century.
Reincke stated that he wrote the story so that we don't repeat
history. Just because Stalin and Hitler aren't alive doesn't mean
we can't get into this situation again. I've been extremely motivated
to document her experience because as humanity, we can't experience
another World War. One and Two were enough.
To learn more visit www.robertreincke.com.