“Despite Anything” – Yelena’s Narrative

Koreans have been living at the territory of Post Soviet Union for more than 100 years and about 70 years in Central Asia and Kazakhstan.

The 1930s – Deportation

I have grandfathers from my mother’s, father’s and step-father’s sides. All of them told me the same story about deportation of Soviet Koreans from the territory near the border between Korea and Russia in the Far East to Central Asia and Kazakhstan. They said, “Before the 1930s our fathers and grandfathers lived near the border. We were free in changing place of living but preferred to stay in the areas where there were a lot of Koreans. All the families were busy with farming or merchandising. Some of Koreans were richer than other but there were no beggars among us. We were deported without any warning. It was announced that we couldn’t take any property with us except the papers and personal things and we had only few hours to collect them. Koreans were moved by trains from Far East in wagons mean for cattle transportation. Along the way a lot of them died. Sick people and dead men were thrown out of the wagons by the guards without any permission to treat or just to bury them.  After the arrival our people were left in villages, collective farms or in steppes without any houses for living. Koreans had to live in stated districts far from the big cities. Until Stalin died in 1953 Koreans didn’t have any right to get university degree or to serve in Military because they were considered officially as possible enemies of Soviet People.”

The1940s – World War II

During the WWII most of Soviet Koreans lived in Central Asia and Kazakhstan. These parts of USSR were not available for the German Army. My grand grandparents lived there in safety but under pressure of blame and shame. My grandfather said, “Every man was recruited by Military Force except us and some other nationalities. USSR was our motherland and we wanted to protect it, but we were considered as potential spies and unreliable persons. It was the most humiliating part of your grand grandfather’s life.”

The 1950s – Role of Sex Gender

My grandmother told me the story which indicates the importance of male gender in the past. She said, “In 1955 we worked on the fields and grew onions in Uzbekistan. Those fields were very far from any village or town and there were no hospitals, train stations and phones. My six month old daughter (my mother) had the flue and the high temperature. She cried but I couldn’t do anything because we don’t have any drugs. My husband was ill too, he had serious problem with his stomach and I thought that he was dying. He couldn’t eat or even move because of his pain. There were no one next to us and I decided to leave my husband and two sons (2 and 3 years old) home alone in order to call a doctor. I couldn’t leave my daughter because she could bother him by her crying.” My grandmother had to walk about 70 kilometers to the nearest village’s hospital. During all the way she carried the child on her back. She said “I cried while walking because my daughter felt bad and it seemed that she stopped breathing.  I couldn’t make myself check her because I was afraid to see that my baby is dead.”  When she reached the hospital in the midnight doctor told her that she had to make the choice between her daughters’s and husband’s lives. Both of then needed urgent medical treatment but if he spent an hour to save the child he couldn’t help her husband in time, because that doctor was the only one in the village. Grandmother said “I chose my husband because he was the man and head of family. I sacrificed my baby although I knew that my husband could already be died. My hard was bleeding. It was the hardest decision and the most terrible day in my life.”

The 2000s – Family’s Philosophy

Despite any obstacles and difficulties every generation of my family finishes its life among wealthy and respectable children. My grandmother said me, “All our life is a test and any obstacle is the possibility you must use to form your character and improve your skills. It doesn’t matter what kind of political regime is in your country but it’s more important what kind of person you are.  In any society at the end of his life a human being has got what he deserved.”

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