During the Second World War, the Nazi invaders created a huge network of death factories on the occupied territories. Of the 18 million people in Europe who passed through the concentration camps, over 11 million were killed. Among those who survived was the famous Polotsk teacher and composer – Nikolai Makarovich Petrenko. In the first days of the war near the town of Marijampole on the territory of Lithuania, Nikolai Petrenko was seriously wounded in the leg and was taken to a hospital, which was not evacuated in time. So the Red Army man became a prisoner of German concentration camps for long four years. Bad Fallingbostel, Flensburg, Neuengamme... At the end of April 1945 10 thousand prisoners from concentration camps in Northern Germany, including Nikolai Petrenko, began to be transported to the ships "Cap Arcona" and" Deutschland", located 4 km from the coast, in Lublin Bay. About 4 thousand prisoners were placed on the "Cap Arcona", where N. M. Petrenko also got to. However, on may 3, 1945, the British air force mistakenly struck these ships, they caught fire and began to sink. Through the broken porthole, Nikolai Makarovich managed to leave the hold and found himself in icy water. Only 223 people escaped from the Cap Arcona. Two weeks later, the former prisoners were handed over to representatives of the Soviet command. And then N. M. Petrenko was waiting for the SMERSH check. Nikolai Makarovich was lucky – after the conversation, he was sent to continue serving in the active army. But for health reasons, N. M. Petrenko soon went to the hospital, where he spent almost three months. After discharge, he continued his military service. In January 1946 Nikolai Makarovich was demobilized.
He became a teacher of the Belarusian language and literature of Polotsk pedagogical school, and later - the Deputy Director of this educational institution. In 1995, the teacher was awarded the title of the "Honorary citizen of Polotsk" for many years of conscientious work on the education of the younger generation and great public activity.