Archive for August 23, 2008

My Grandpa Survived Siberia’s GULAG for 15 Years

My Grandpa Survived Siberia’s GULAG 15 Years

By Laura J.


My granddad on my mother’s side was an amazing storyteller. He had a lot of interesting live stories that we heard with great interest. He had tremendous memory on names; he could remember them over the time of 30-40 years. Grandpa had a good sense of humor; it was always interesting to spend time with him. My granddaddy was the kindest man that I had ever seen. And what is more he didn’t try to expose this kindness openly, he just did good things quietly and silently.


My grandmamma was a very charismatic person. She was not of those who talk a lot, but when she began to talk every one else automatically, unwittingly lapsed into silence. She never reproached, never humiliated anybody, but raised the significance of people. Sometimes I think that she knew everything that I felt, thought about, like she could read my mind. Never did she make me feel myself miserable, unhappy. On the contrary, she cheered me up, inspired me to be better without words, one look from her was enough to feel it. My grandparents were totally unconflictive people. There was a true deep love between them. And they shared this love with us.  My grandpa outlived my grandma only on 48 days, he couldn’t live without her. They showed us a great example of love that lasted nearly 50 years.


Also I have grandpa from father’s side. He was legendary man. He studied at MGU and was an excellent student giving a huge hope. Unfortunately I have never seen him. He died 3 years before my birth, at the age of 83. He had a severe fate. At the dawn of his age he was sent to exile in to the most horrible gulag in Siberia, where he survived 15 years. My father told me that at that tormented place every one respected my granddad, because of his justice, erudition, wide reading and strength of will. Every day people next to him died, but he told to himself not to give up, repeating again and again: ‘”I will survive”. 


My Grandpa was sent to gulag as a nationalist (racist).  Well actually he was studying Moscow University, and once when he came to his native town in Kazakhstan he saw famine and poverty. After coming back to Moscow he went to Kremlin several times, in order to talk over this problem with Stalin. But there it was interpreted like nationalism, although my Grandfather was talking about Ukrainian people too (they had the same situation as Kazakhstan had). It was in 1937, the time of Stalin’s repressions, when every one who had any slightest kind of threat to the government was sent to exile.  My granddad in spite of everything survived. After that he taught a higher mathematics at university, and students called him “friend of people”, because he always stood up for ordinary people. On one of his classes he was given a letter where he read: “unguilty”. Tears welled up in his eyes. He was waiting for these words for many years being 15 agonizing years in gulag. All the time up to his death my grandfather was walking with papers on which he was solving difficult math problems.


I wish I knew him.






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Aiperi’s Kyrgyz Grandfather and His Education

This story begins in the late 1938.  Our family was living in the village called Nookat, on the North of the Kyrgyzstan. There were only 5 neighbour families in our village. We had a house with 5 rooms and a farm with 200 sheep, 10 cows and 5 horses. Our family was large; there were 11 children in our family: 4 boys and 7 girls, of course for the new generation having 11 children in one family sounds very unusual but for us it was ok, because it was some kind of tradition.


          I was the smallest one in our family. None of us could write or read that is why I thought that I am the only person who can be educated. I was dreaming of reading, writing, calculating and so on. Well the first thing what I did was that I shared my idea of studying at school with my father. But the only thing that I heard from him was “No! Forget about it!” This answer got me disappointed.  But desire of studying still existed in me. Well what I did next!!! One day I with my 3 other friends planned to go to school and try to study. How I remember now it was 21 of September.  We woke up early in the morning and began our “journey” to school. It took us 5 hours to get there, of course on foot because at that time there were no cars, no buses, and no bicycles. Eventually we came to school. It was just named as a school, because there was only one room with no desks, no tables, no blackboards, well there was nothing except the poster of our leader V.I.Lenin. In the room were 5 other pupils and a teacher whose name was Aigul. And our first lesson was Kyrgyz language. Because of no notebooks we were writing on the floor with a rack. That day we had two lessons as I already said Kyrgyz language and mathematics. I found it very interesting and exciting. I was the happiest person in the world. When I came home and told my father about lessons he got angry and prohibited me from school. But in spite of it, I continued visiting.


Time passes and came one of the most frightful days in the life of the Soviet people – 21 of June of 1939. This awful day in the morning we got information from the radio that Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Our village was shocked and came to a standstill. At that time couldn’t realize what was happening. War? What is it? We didn’t even know about it. Next day all volunteers from our village were collected and transported to the battle-front. Among them were my father and my two elder brothers. Well, why did they do this? The answer is simple – they were patriots of their motherland, they were patriots of Soviet Union. Difficult days came. All members of our family were serving on the home front. What does it mean serving for the home front? It means cultivating vegetables, sewing clothes and doing it not for our own consumption but to give the soldiers. This passed 1 year, then 2 years, then 3 years. Then came 9 of May of 1945. All citizens of Soviet Union were celebrating this day as a Victory day. Soldiers were restored from the Front. Not one of my brothers nor my father came back. They were killed; they were killed as patriots of their country. After 2 years I went to Frunze [Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan] city which was the capital of Kyrgyz SSR. I passed to the university and it was the beginning of my happy life.  

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