Grigori Kovalchuk was born in western Ukraine in 1944. At the end of the war, the family was denounced by a neighbour and he was deported, along with his mother, brothers and sister, to the Arkhangelsk region. His father was accused of having belonged to the banderovtsi, although he had been shot dead by the banderovtsi for being pro-Soviet.
After two years in exile, his mother decided to escape with her children and return to her village. She bartered her shawl for a train ticket and set off on the long journey, via Moscow, where she took a lorry from one station to the other, and Kyiv.
They all lived for a while in their village and then were denounced again by a neighbour and deported to the same place. Then they were sent to Siberia, perhaps to stop the mother escaping again. They went by train to Bratsk, then a small village in Siberia, and then to a village where a large number of Ukrainians were living, near Kaltuk. His sister, Anna Kovalchuk-Tarasova, started work very young; Grigori went on to higher education with great success.
Grigori now teaches geography in Kaltuk. He worked at the school for forty years. He retired but was recalled to teach again. He is also a musician.