|Year of birth||1911|
|Date of arrest||29.09.1941|
|Place of rescue||Babyn Yar|
|Date of rescue||31.09.1941|
|Location of the stumbling stone||Bulvarno-Kudriavska Street, 41|
|Stumbling stone installation date||7 October 2021|
Dina Myronivna Mstyslavska (Wasserman) was born in Chernihiv in 1911. She was the daughter of Myron Oleksandrovych Mstyslavskyi and Anna Yukhymivna Mstyslavska.
In her adolescence she moved to Kyiv and started working in Kyiv Puppet Theatre where she met her husband Victor who came from an ancient actor court dynasty in Petersburg. In 1932 she got married to Victor Pronichev who was of Russian nationality. She had a daughter Lidiia (1938 – 2009) and a son Volodymyr (1940). She worked in Kyiv Central Puppet Theatre. When the War broke out, she lived in Vorovskyi Street. 41, together with her husband and children. Her parents, brothers and a sister lived not far from them in Turhenivska Street 27. Brothers left for army. On September 29, 1941, according to the German order, she headed for Babyn Yar together with her parents and sister. At first she managed to persuade the Germans that she was Ukrainian and joined the group of people who got there accidentally. However, in the evening of September 29 an order went out to execute these people as witnesses of the shootings. Before the moment of shooting she fell of the precipice on the dead bodies pretending to be killed and during the following three days she was trying to get out of the Babyn Yar boundaries. On the third day on September 31 she hid in a barn but its mistress noticed her and informed the Germans about that so Dina Pronicheva got to Babyn Yar for the second time.
This time she was put in a truck with other prisoners and in Shuliavka Dina Pronicheva and her friend Liubov Shamin managed to escape. After that they were hiding in Dina Pronicheva cousin’s wife place and then moved to Darnytsia to the abandoned buildings of Carriage renovating Plant (“DVRZ”). When the Germans decided to restore the work of the enterprise for their own needs, she miraculously avoided prison, because she was thought to be one of the prewar workers and took the offer to work on the factory. She worked as a record keeper and then as a translator on false papers in Nadiia Savchenko’s name which she got with the help of Liubov Shamin. During her half-year work she helped two Russian war prisoners who were first-aid men and worked on the factory by correcting their Russian surnames into the Ukrainian ones (from “Ivanov” to “Ivanenko”) in their documents.
In autumn her brother returned and was shot on the doorsteps of their family home (Turhenivska 27). Local janitors give him up to the Germans as a Soviet soldier.
In December 1941 she took her son but she had to hide as the only witness of the Babyn Yar crime. During one of the raids the fascists used little Volodia as a bait. They started shooting at the two-year child in the street shouting, “Come out or we will kill him!” expecting the mother not to be able to withstand and do what they said. Dina was looking at this mockery out of her friend Mariia Kalinichenko’s window and was ready to give herself up but the friend stopped her by telling that the Nazis would kill both of them if she came out.
After they failed to beat the mother out, Gestapo ordered the policeman to put the child into a death van. The boy was rescued from that van by Mariia Kalinichenko who gave her gold ring to “pay” for him.
After the War Mariia Yukhymivna Kalinichenko, Dina’s friend, was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
The rescued boy was given to his father but in winter Dina’s husband was arrested and then executed for the denial to expose his Jewish wife’s place of stay.
Their son was rescued by Dina’s flatmate, the underground member Natalia Movchanova who also worked on Darnytsia Carriage renovating Plant (“DVRZ”) as the accountant trainee. Then she worked as an accountant and temporarily shared the abandoned flat with translator Dina who acted under the name of Nadiia Savchenko. Natalia brought Volodia to Dina after the husband was arrested.
Plant worker Shura Skrypnyk found out that Dina was Jew and reported it to the Plant director, the Nazi named Kolbe. He questioned Natalia in his cabinet threatening to shoot her but she denied knowing her flatmate’s nationality. Natalia managed to tell Dina about that interrogation so Dina hid and left the child with Natalia. The very same night two Gestapo soldiers came to the house looking for Dina. Natalia was a member of an underground organization at “DVRZ” led by career officer Leonid Vorobiov. He used to get information about army trucks movement and Natalia gave it to the partisan unity “For the Motherland”. But at that time she had to take care of Volodymyr. The help came from the policeman called Serhii. He suggested sending the boy to the orphanage and wrote the papers informing that he found the child in the street. Serhii was probably an underground member as well. Natalia and Hanna Hlibova brought Volodymyr to the orphanage in the Ovruchska Street where his little sister Lida lived.
On February 23, 1942, Dina was arrested by Gestapo. Pronicheva spent almost a month in prison and was rescued by the policeman who turned out to be a partisan. Rescued first-aid men helped Dina to escape by forging her sickness paper which allowed her go through the checkpoint outside the city. Near Bila Tserkva she joined the travelling theatre troupe led by Hryhorii Afanasyev. He helped Dina because he got through his own tragedy when his Jewish wife and a little son were killed by the Germans in front of him.
Dina often had to run away from the city due to the risk of being exposed. She eventually returned to Kyiv after its liberation.
In 1944 she found her both children in orphanages.
In January 1946, after the war ended, she witnessed in Kyiv trial when several German officers were tried and then executed.
During the postwar years she worked as an artist in Puppet Theatre. She got married to her savior, theatre colleague, stage machinist Hryhorii Afanasyev. She lived in the same house where she used to before the war.
In 1960s she witnessed about the events of autumn 1941 as the participant of Darmstadt trial (1968) on former members of Sonderkommando 4a who avoided their sentence in Nuremberg trials. Dina was made to come to Darmstadt accompanied by two KGB officers and to witness in court since the lawyers of accused executioners in Babyn Yar demanded her to come as they were trying to refute her written testimonies. Due to her testimonies, the culprit who gave the order to execute the gathered Jews on September 29 was revealed and sentenced.
She was close with all the rescued from Babyn Yar after the war. Kaper, Trubakov, Davydov and others often came to her as guests. She gathered with caring people in Babyn Yar, kept in touch with former prisoners of Syrets concentration camp, took part in unofficial meetings in 1966.
She died of kidney cancer in 1977 which is the result of a kidney disease got during the hidings from Gestapo in 1941. She didn’t see the first monument to commemorate the people killed in Babyn Yar which was installed in 1976.
Besides her, 28 people managed to survive in Babyn Yar.
Links and documents:
Central State Archive of Public Associations of Ukraine / Committee on the History of the Great Patriotic War at the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR / fund 166, description 3, case 245, 115 – 134. [in Russian].
Frenkel M. (2011). Rescued from Hell. Jewish observer 05/225 September, 2011[in Russian]