Recluse hid from Nazis in his parents' attic in Ukraine for 57 YEARS – and only emerged for a tragic reason | The Sun
STEPAN Kovalchuk spent more than five decades tucked away in a small attic of his parent's house for a gut wrenching reason.
In 1942, the Ukrainian recluse entered the tiny dwelling to escape Nazi and Soviet troops, and remained hidden for fear of being drafted into the menacing Red Army.
On a trip to a monastery in a nearby village, Stepan and his mother heard horrifying tales of Nazis kidnapping young Ukrainians and sending them for slave labour.
After the Germans retreated, he stayed up there to avoid being drafted into the advancing Red Army.
But when the war ended three years later he decided to stay put in his loft – and didn't leave for five decades.
His sister Melanka worked as a seamstress to support her brother and a church deacon in a neighbouring village, bringing him food and necessities.
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Stepan told Day Kyiv: "Hardly a day passed without three or four men stepping over our threshold. But I stayed still, not to give myself away."
The hermit became used to his odd way of life, and had a system with his sister – she did machine sewing while he did manual work.
He said: "I never sat still. That is my pride and joy."
Stepan lived quiet life alongside his mother and sister until she died in the early 1980s, and he reemerged to go to church with his sister.
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He recalled: "It was interesting for me, I hadn’t seen all this before."
Stepan only emerged for good after his sister tragically died in 1999 – marking 57 years he had lived in the small attic in the Ukrainian village.
In the days leading up to her death, he ate only dried bread in the attic along with water.
Melanka only revealed that her brother was in an attic to her cousin Antonina Petrushenko while they were digging up potatos.
Antonina recalled: "Melanka was very sad, she said she should not die. I told her that we are all are mortal, we all have to do die. Why, are you leaving behind small kids? Only then did she tell me about her brother who had been in an attic for 57 years…”
Ten days after Melanka died, Stepan finally ventured out into the yard of the home had stayed in for 57 years for good.
A photo taken of him in 1999 revealed Stepan to be a pale old man a hunch back from the years of bending down in the attic.
Since he began living a more normal life in 1999, he's reconnected with old friends, including a neighbour who he used to "run barefoot with in childhood."
Stepan's story echoes that of another man – Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda, who fought for 30 years after the end of WW2 in a jungle, not knowing the war had ended.
The young intelligence officer of the Imperial Japanese Army was told under no circumstances should he surrender or take his own life – and he was to keep fighting until the bitter end.
Hiroo explained in 2010: "Every Japanese soldier was prepared for death, but as an intelligence officer I was ordered to conduct guerrilla warfare and not to die.
"I became an officer and I received an order. If I could not carry it out, I would feel shame.”
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But Onoda — a highly trained survival expert — led his few surviving comrades into the mountainous jungle in the island's interior.
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