Zinoviy Ovsey

Zinoviy Ovsey

Born June 5th 1919 Yenakievo, Ukraine.

Interviewed In: Toronto, Ontario

Medals Awarded: Order of the Patriotic War (1st and 2nd Class),  Medal For Defense of Kiev and Victory over Germany In The Great Patriotic War

Military Surgeon 13th Guards Division – Ukrainian Front.


“Big number of men to be operated on under difficult circumstances, in the forest under a canvas, in the outskirts of a village, sometimes with scarce lighting.” Zinoviy was finishing medical school when the war began in 1941. After the First Battle Of Kiev, he and any other available medical personnel were taken to the front by train. Upon arrival, Zinoviy was immediately made a senior lieutenant and assigned to the 13th Guards division. The mass of wounded men forced Zinoviy to work up to 10 hours in a row while compensating for a shortage of supplies:

“Necessity is the mother of invention. We were operating under a canvass. Our truck

drivers used to arrange the lighting in an original way: they took a truck headlight off with the truck motors running and fixed it inside the operating rooms”

To maximize efficiency, Zinoviy’s commander organized “mini medical battalions” in late 1941. These groups consisted of 2 surgeons, 2 nurses, 4 attending, and a driver. These teams would drive close to the front and administer aid, eliminating the need to transport soldiers while they were wounded. On May 22nd 1942, Zinoviy was wounded while his battalion was returning from the front:

“I was on the truck with the wounded soldiers when an air raid started, the Germans fighters firing at us. Despite seeing the Red Cross on top of our truck, German pilots fired at us”.

Both of Zinoviy’s legs were seriously injured. He was medically discharged from the army after 6 months in a hospital. Zinoviy was working at a walk in clininc in Vilnus, Lithuania when the war ended: “I was about to leave for work, I heard shooting in the street. People were shouting and shooting from their guns. At first we didn’t understand what was going on. When I went out to Mindangasa Street I saw hundreds of people running to the Opera Theatre, hugging and kissing each other. I asked, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘End of the war! The Germans signed the capitulation. End of the war!’ You can’t imagine, nobody worked that day”. Zinoviy maintained his medical practice in Lithuania before immigrating to Canada.