We are in the eye of the storm right now. Not unlike in some ways the Koreans of several generations ago from the “Far East” who were whisked away and transplanted from their locale near the ocean to that of the steppes of Kazakhstan. My friend Aliya told me her grandmother’s story who was born in 1912. Her Grandmother I-Sun was married to a North Korean man who was a spy in Japan for the Soviets. The Japanese found him out and subsequently put Aliya’s grandfather in prison in Japan. He somehow escaped and returned to where his family was in the Far East. Or so he thought. Little did he know that his wife and young daughter had been given five minutes to pack up to get on a train to Kazakhstan or die. However, even though Aliya’s grandfather was a true blue communist and served the Soviet Union during WWII by spying, he was later found by the NVKD reunited with his family in Kazakhstan and thrown into a Soviet prison this time.
Aliya’s grandfather was considered an “enemy of the people” because he had been in Japan. It wasn’t until after Stalin’s death in 1952 that he was able to get his reputation rehabilitated and have his passport returned to him. He treasured his communist party card. After his release from prison a second time, he returned to Kazakhstan where he had two more children, the youngest was Aliya’s mother, born in 1960. He was by this time almost 60 years old or older, Aliya’s grandmother was about 45 years old. He died almost 90 years old, the year Aliya was born in 1983.
These travails the 1.5 million “Soviet” Koreans survived during the Stalin years is just a tip of the iceberg. Many of the descendants of these Koreans still live in Kazakhstan and even in Uzbekistan. So, if we think we move around a lot, it is of our own volition. Tragically, many people in the Soviet Union did not have any time to pack or say goodbye to loved ones. I’d say they suffered emotional tsunamis many times over. May that never happen to us.