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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nazi-Camp Survivors Relive Old Suffering

ST. PETERSBURG -- On the eve of the country's lavish plans to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, Russia is again turning a cold shoulder to the 3,000 Soviet survivors of Nazi labor camps who are alive today.


The 200 remaining St. Petersburg women who worked in the camps will receive no accolades during Victory Day celebrations on May 8 and 9.


No ceremonies are planned for these frail survivors, who speak of decades of discrimination and harassment.


Mariya Rybina returned home after three years of forced labor, torture and hunger in a Nazi work camp expecting her country to greet her with open arms.


Instead, Soviet soldiers punched her and branded her a traitor. "They asked me, 'Why didn't you run away? Why didn't you kill yourself?'" Rybina said.


While the Soviet Union celebrated its victory over Nazi Germany, Rybina fell victim to Stalin's decree denouncing adult Russians deported to work in Germany and the territories it conquered as "enemies of the Soviet people."


One of legions of Russians that invading Nazis shipped to work camps, Rybina was considered a turncoat because she was an adult when captured.


The infamous decree classified civilian slave laborers born before 1920 as adults, able to resist and therefore traitors to the "Great Patriotic War."


Rybina, now 76, has none of the lapel pins, pension supplements or other symbolic items that Moscow lavishes on other war-time sufferers.


If Rybina had been one year younger when captured, she would have escaped the decree and have a pin as a "Hero of the Soviet Union" and a bigger pension.


Forbidden to come within 100 kilometers of Leningrad after the war, she was questioned repeatedly by the KGB over the next two decades and her job applications were rejected. "We suffered so much, both physically and morally," she said. "We were and are patriots. We just tried to survive."


When a defeated Germany offered reparations payments to Soviet survivors of Nazi forced labor camps, Stalin refused to accept them.


In 1994, when Bonn gave Moscow millions of marks to distribute to war victims, the Kremlin awarded adult work-camp survivors the lowest amount.


"For us, the anniversary is nothing but tears," said another survivor, Zinaida. "No official will stand up and say 'You are not guilty. We will not forget your experience.'"