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Introduction to the book Children of Siberia
Famine. Cold. Fear. Violence. Desperation. Spite. Hope.
A battle for life and oneself.
These are all aspects of the children of the tragic historical events that occurred in
the 20th century - people who recall the loss of Latvia's independence in 1940,
who remember the repeated occupations of the country during and after World War II,
who recollect deportations, and further lives as refuges.
The harsh winds of destiny have cut these experiences deep into the hearts of those
children, and the memories sometimes flare up - the train on the tracks,
the bitter cold in the barracks, the promise of a potato skin or a crust of bread tomorrow,
and abovee all the yearning for the warmth of human touch,
for the knowledge, for the play.
Children of Siberia
In 1946 the Ministry of Public Education of Latvia carried out an unprecedented action, having returned 1320 children deported together with parents in June, 1941 from Siberia.
"When I spoke with colleagues from Estonia and Lithuania, they confirmed that in their republics anything similar was even tried to be made — the senior assistant of the LR State archive, the historian Yanis Riyekstinsh tells. — Of course, to organize re-evacuation of children it was difficult: resistance was at all levels both in Riga, and in Moscow. Frankly speaking, I am surprised how it managed to be made!"
— Judging by documents, it was talked in the beginning only of 34 orphans who were in the Siberian orphanages — the historian tells. — Obviously, their Latvian relatives addressed to the Supreme Council of Latvia. But as soon as the ministry began to send inquiries to the Siberian shelters and departments of People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, the number of the Latvian orphans began to grow as a snowball. In the 41st year from Latvia 3741 children were taken out.
According to Ya. Riyekstinsh, formally children up to 16 years during the first deportation were not sent, and followed together with parents. However, having reached majority, they automatically got under supervision of People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs and had no right to leave the place of the settlement. It is necessary to consider that during deportation of the 41st year of family were divided: fathers are sent in the camp, and wives and children — to the settlement. At deportation of the 49th year, for example, it was not done any more. In the camp mortality among men who had to bring down the wood was very big. Especially among the intellectuals and elderly people. They the first died of hunger, cold and back-breaking toil. Of course, it was easier for the peasants who got used to physical work. Women and children were distributed on state farms and collective farms — lodged in houses of locals and defined for work. They had to provide themselves. During war already hard living conditions became absolutely heavy. Orphan children became more and more. And quite often mother, having several children, just could not support them.
Courageous companion Kirkhenstein
Archival documents confirm that when the group of employees of the ministry already arrived in Moscow to settle the last details, business nearly broke. Capital officials found out that "this especially political case" is not coordinated with Council of ministers of the USSR and the Ministry of Internal Affairs! Responsibility was shifted to "the Latvian companions" — the deputy minister Trinkler and the Minister of Internal Affairs Eglit who advanced the "Siberian" action. After formality were settled and in 7 months it was succeeded to send to Riga 12 cars with children. And the head of the Supreme Council of LSSR Augustus Kirkhenstein was the main initiator of unique operation.
Today we know that the organization of such political action in Stalin time could cost to the high-ranking party member if not lives, then freedom. And in all present textbooks of history the Soviet government of Latvia is called now precisely "the pro-Moscow forces" which obediently drew a line party! "Everything depended on the specific person — Yanis Riyekstinsh diplomatically comments on my remark. — Kirkhenstein just honestly did the part. On his name victims of political repression and their family wrote complaints. In archive I saw hundreds of requests which Kirkhenstein sent in People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, pointing to various violations in affairs of political prisoners and exiled. By the way, one his brother was shot in the years of Big terror too, and another disappeared in GULAG".
Anna Luz is goodwill ambassador
The worker of the Ministry of Public Education Anna Karlovna Luz was the second person thanks to whom it was succeeded to save the Latvian children. Later she held a modest position of the head of the kindergarten of factory of "Lime" and very few people knew how many forces were required to it to finish this difficult "Siberian" business. Nearly 7 months she lived in Krasnoyarsk, searching on villages of the little compatriots. There was not enough time, it was necessary to be in time before the Siberian rivers freeze. In the middle of April the ministry coordinates this action with Moscow, and already on May 31 the first car where there were not 34, but 102 children any more was sent to Riga! Besides orphans included in the list also children from large families.
Local authorities allocated for gathering of children school for deaf-mutes on the bank of Yenisei. The children who arrived from orphanages on Anna Luz's memoirs, were dressed well and even had with themselves one change of linen, and here settlers were in such old clothes that it was necessary to look for urgently for them clothes and footwear. As soon as 100 people were taken, Luz sent them to Riga: at first by train Krasnoyarsk — Moscow to which clung the additional car. The action cost the Ministry of Public Education 331 692 rubles. Unfortunately, three hundred children did not manage to take out, but Anna already made greatest possible: made out all children whom mothers asked to take away from Siberia. Even those who were more senior than the put 16 years!
Moreover, "the citizens of LSSR who are returning home" were appointed accompanying persons. The former exiled are behind a foggy formulation. Already in the early fifties all that at whom settlement term expired, it was declared that they are sent forever. But in the 46th nuts of GULAG were slightly unscrewed — and some managed to escape. Among the accompanying persons there was a doctor of medicine, the graduate of the Parisian medical institute Nikolay Stolygvo. Rumors went that the same Kirkhenstein who complained to Moscow that in the republic there are not enough highly skilled physicians personally strove on his homecoming.
In Riga most of the Siberian children relatives or friends of parents sorted, in orphanages there were the few. Alas, a part of children was again deported to Siberia in 1949. Yanis Riyekstinsh gives me put Leynsh Zigridy Yanovny, nee Dvinsk. On a photo — the young nice woman with big light eyes. In June of the 41st year 11 years, and to the sister Elge — 10 were it. The father who was ayzsarg died in the camp, and mother sent girls to Riga with Anna Luz's team. In a year and she returned home — on official permission of local People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs as the term of its dispatch ended.
Mother and the younger daughter located in Riga on Tallinas St., 60, and Zigrida went to Leningrad where she entered the financial and economic institute and married. Several years of the woman lived quietly and were sure that all the most terrible already behind. And in May of the 50th year the resolution "About Settlement of Family Leynsh to the Former Place of the Settlement" was accepted. This time already for ever. The Latvian bodies considered that the Ministry of Public Education illegally took out sisters Leynsh from Siberia as they were not orphans. In December, 1953, after Stalin's death and a release of the order "About Amnesty", Zigrida writes the letter full of despair to the chairman of the Supreme Council of the USSR Voroshilov with a request to reconsider a sentence.
"Really we did not expiate for 8 years of the reference the fact that were born at a bourgeois system and our father was an active member of the military organization of ayzsarg? Even if we at that time would understand political life of the country, then the father for certain would not begin to listen to either us, or mother. Really to me and the sister all the young life, and swear at the rest of life it is necessary to spend in exile because of the person, the dead who committed a crime, maybe, till our birth?"
Voroshilov did not grant a request. Zigrida died in half a year. She was 25 years old. It did not live up to release literally one-two years! Doors of GULAG where more than 2 million people lived in the special settlement, began to open already in the 1954th, and swung open in the 1956th when innocently condemned people at last could find freedom finally.
Vestidegocnja | August 4, 2006
Book. The children of Siberia. Part. I and Part II. 1440p. y.2012. by Foundation “Sibirijas Berni”
The book “The Children of Siberia” Part 1 have been published in 2008. It collects interviews from letter A-K. The second volume, published November 22, 2012, include the L-Z letter.
The deportations of June 14, 1941, involved 15,425 residents of Latvia – Latvians, Jews, Russians and Poles, including more than 3,750 children aged 16 or less. During the process, men were split off from their families and sent to camps in the Gulag, where fathers and brothers died of starvation and disease.
Women and children were sent to special settlements, mostly in villages in the Krasnoyarsk and Tomsk districts. The first period of the deportations was particularly terrible for them. World War II continued, and many women and children died as the result of heavy labour and disease.
A Russian song suggests that World War II was a holy war. Mendacious propaganda ensured that the deportees were called Fascists, and that is how they were treated, too. There is a place called Agapitova on the lower reaches of the Yenisei River. It is known as “Death Island”, because in the autumn of 1942, 700 people, including Latvian mothers and children, were put ashore there. By the spring of 1943, only 70 remained alive. Among them were six Latvian children who were interviewed for this book.
In 1946 and 1947, thanks to the dedication and efforts of employees of the Orphanage Division of the Soviet Latvian Ministry of Education, more than 1,000 children who had been deported on June 14, 1941, were brought back to Latvia. Most were children who had lost one or both parents. They were sent to the homes of relatives or to orphanages. Alas, this did not bring their torments to an end. Many were sent back to Siberia in subsequent stages of deportations, and those who survived could return to Latvia only in the mid-1950s. The children and grandchildren of the 1941 deportees can still be found in Siberia today.
We have travelled thousands of kilometres over the course of six years. Children who were sent to the Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk, Yeniseisk and other districts are now elderly people, often disabled. It was not just their Motherland and their relatives who were taken away from them. The Soviet Union’s policy of Russification also robbed them of their language, and many speak no Latvian at all. Some of these people never lost hope that they could spend their old age back in Latvia, even if that meant living in a poorhouse, but this dream is just a dream. Today they are separated from their Motherland by a boundary that is not easily crossed. When we returned to Latvia from each trip to Siberia, we were full of impressions about the natural beauty of that land. We had video recordings and interviews, but we always brought along deeply personal emotions, as well. We felt sorrow and an endless feeling of guilt. Those who returned were happy to return to their Motherland, but there can be no compensation for loneliness, suffering, hunger and the loss of one’s loved ones. This has had consequences across many generations. Each story offers evidence and commemoration of brothers and sisters who remained in the eternally frozen Siberian wasteland.
In terms of sheer numbers, Jews were the second largest group of deportees in June 1941. Those who survived returned to Latvia to find that their relatives had lost their lives during World War II. In the 1970’s, most of these people were allowed to emigrate to Israel. We found children of Siberia there, as well.
We have interviewed 670 people in Latvia, Russia, Israel and America. We have received much light, love and confirmation of hopes for Latvia’s future. We wish to present these to future generations.
Hunger, cold, fear, violence, despair, obstinacy, hope and struggle for life and self-esteem unites all 20. century tragic historical events in children – those who remember the loss of Latvian Freedom 1940, the country multiple occupation during World War II, deportation, refugee, recycling and re-deportation refugee. Cold winds of fate have left deep in the hearts of these children experiences that flashes memories from time to time, either as a continuous railway Duna, or caustic cold barracks, potato peel or crust promise of tomorrow, but above it all – the desire for humanity in the hands of tenderness, sciences and games. Siberia or in refugee camps in the western area of the horrors of war Latvian or elsewhere in Europe – the scar and the ability to survive and become successful in their humanity and their shared life. Holy work done “Siberian child ‘initiative, and also the people who within the Museum, or otherwise, have been made in the audio file, or video at a fixed writing of the various nations of human destinies historical heritage, as it is very popular and important the general history of our country identification. During my life I have tried to identify even a few dozen children living in exile story, and would be very pleased if this work continues. Because we would have identified cross-cutting its history as a more realistic and focused view can create their own future – as a country that is itself aware of the opportunities and actively engaged in their daily lives, and also on the foreign policy stage does not allow the world to forget the events that so tragically and violently so impressed many countries and the fate of people’s lives. It is amazing how many people have gone through unimaginable hardship and challenges that have managed to maintain an encouraging view of life, the experiences hammered strong character and willpower, have been able to survive, achieve success, and don’t allow to be depressed scars, but devote their efforts to wound turn into strength, hope, and heart pulsating beams of light. All of us, each in its own way, it has been home to come Latvia regained independence. Today is the duty and responsibility to continue an active life story of finding a job – it is necessary not only history, but also to our nation, deeply listening to each other and understanding, further strengthening the unity of the bridge. People’s stories and characters form the soul and conscience. Although much scattered in the world, but they are all united in Latvia. People’s life stories form a bridge through which all can come home. Latvian.
The President of Latvia (1999-2007)