Olena Apanovych was born in Melekes of Simbirsk Governorate (now Dimitrovgrad of Ulyanovsk Oblast), Russia, in the family of the railroad clerk. By the memories of her relatives her mother gave birth to Olena in the railroad car. Her father was of Belarusian peasants (hence the Belarusian last name Apanovich and her mother was of the small-time Polish nobility ancestry. She spent all her childhood in Manchuria (the North-East of China) where her father worked. Her family was deported from China by the Japanese and settle in Kharkiv in 1933, where Olena finished the high-school. Olena's mother soon died and father was repressed in 1939 by false accusations.
In 1937 she entered the All-Union Institute of Journalism in Moscow but the school was soon closed and Apanovych returned to Kharkiv where she graduated from the Pedagogical Institute (Faculty of Russian language and literature) soon before the beginning of Second World War. After the onset of the German invasion she was evacuated to Kazakhstan and Bashkiria. From May, 1944, Olena worked in Central State Archive of Ukraine in Kiev as researcher and took part in preparation of many historical documents for publishing.
In 1950 Olena Apanovich defended her dissertation for the Kandidat of Science degree (roughly a Ph.D. equivalent) on Zaporozhian Cossacks participation in Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774 and joined the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine as a leading expert on Cossackdom. During the period of 1950 - 1972 she founded archaeological expeditions to the places, connected with Zaporozhian Cossackdom history, published many scientific works, made full register of Zaporozhian Cossacks memory places.
From 1972 after being fired for political reasons from the Institute of History, Apanovych worked in the Central Scientific Library of The Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, making significant contribution in manuscript research. In early eighties the historian was often invited as consultant for documentary and fiction films on Ukrainian Cossackdom.
- Apanovich Biography on the Museum of dissident movement site, (Ukrainian)
- Lyudmyla Tarnashynska, "55 years «under the sign of Clio».", Zerkalo nedeli, (The Mirror Weekly), September 4–10, 2004.