Official Site of Speaker, Historian and Author Sean Munger

Earth, Missing Persons

Disappeared: Donna Michalenko, missing 45 years.

michalenkokief nd

This started out as an “Earth” post, and the photo below the image of Donna Michalenko, who vanished in November 1968, is a Google Earth street view shot of the place she lived, the tiny hamlet of Kief, North Dakota. (Click to enlarge). The population of this tiny place was 97 at the time she disappeared. Now, nearly a half century later, it’s only 13. In a few years Kief will literally be a ghost town. I can’t imagine people are moving there in significant numbers, and it’s doubtful the 13 people who are left are having a lot of babies.

Very little is known about Donna’s disappearance. A 38 year old woman, evidently of Ukrainian extraction–I suspect much of the population of Kief was or is Ukranian, and note that the town itself is named after a place in Ukraine (Kiev)–vanished after hitting some bars. Here’s what Charley Project has on her.

Michalenko was last seen in Kief, North Dakota on November 2, 1968. She and a male friend went to a bar and stayed until midnight. Her friend said he dropped her off at her in Butte, North Dakota, at the home of her ex-husband and three children. She has never been heard from again.

Michalenko had a history of leaving town voluntarily for extended time periods. As a result, she was not reported missing until December 27, six weeks after she was last seen. Her daughter filed the report. Foul play is now suspected in her case, but it remains unsolved and few details are available.

This is one of those cases that is probably unsolvable. With so few clues to go on and such a vast search territory–North Dakota was an even bigger, rawer, emptier place in 1968 than it is today–I can’t imagine much will ever be found to shed light on Donna’s disappearance. Sadly, this is how many missing persons cases end up.

Update: Thank you to the commenters who pointed out my error in originally identifying Kiev as part of Russia, not Ukraine. I have corrected the error and apologize to anyone who was offended at the error. I should know better than this, thanks for keeping me straight! (No pun intended).


  1. Um, hate to be the pedant here, but Kiev is in the Ukraine. You know, a country that spent like a century trying to get out from under Russia. Calling a Ukrainian “Russian” is like calling a Scotsman, Irishman or Welshman “English.” And Michalenko is a Ukrainian name.

  2. I wondered if this Jane Doe could be Donna.

    Submitted it to LE. Anything’s possible.

  3. The error has been corrected. Thank you. Hopefully I can still run for President in Michigan.

  4. I’ve been studying Ukrainian history recently — the Holodomor etc — and seeing a lot of Ukrainian nationalist sentiment there. Though perhaps my research is a bit one-sided.

    • I expect a formal diplomatic protest and “Zombies of Byzantium” to be banned in the Ukraine as a result of this incident.

    • Speaking of Zombies in Byzantium, didn’t you say something about sending me a copy?

  5. Unfortunately, there are too many stories like this around the world. Awareness and blogs like this are a good start to open our eyes to it all. Keep up the good work Sean.

  6. I read a book about it recently called “Execution by Hunger.” The book was kind of tragicomic in some ways because the Soviet “efficiency experts” sent to improve productivity on the collective farms knew nothing about farming at all and made silly mistakes and no one dared to correct them. Like, in the book it talked about how their commissar said the collective farm’s mares weren’t producing enough foals and how could they have foals when they were locked up all the time in their stalls and henceforth, they must be allowed to roam freely on the farm. Then they would be able to reproduce. The collective farm workers let the mares loose, knowing full well that it would not help because there were no stallions. Apparently the commissar had forgotten how babies are made.

    But mostly the book was just sad. The eyewitness accounts of hunger and death and suicide and cannibalism were physically painful to read.

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