Posts tagged NKVD

Double Punishment for being a Captive Soldier in WWII

I continue to learn new things from my advanced Speaking class, sad things about death and repressions. What irony there is in life but it often happened in the former Soviet union, double punishment for fighting as a soldier in a war and being caught as a prisoner. One of my student’s grandfather on her mother’s side was arrested by a German officer and put in a German concentration camp.  After the war, the Kazakh soldier was released and he returned to Kazakhstan only to be put in a Soviet gulag camp according to Stalin’s orders.  After Stalin died in 1953, he was released and lived only another 8-10 years, he died in the early 1960s.

Another student said that his grandfather on his mother’s side wasn’t imprisoned, he somehow avoided prison.  But he did not avoid the police station every night for several years.  He was asked over and over again the same questions and by 1953, he was convinced he hated communists.  I asked if he was beaten or tortured.  No, he just had to answer the questions correctly otherwise he would have ended up in a Siberian concentration camp.

Another instance in the same family was the grandfather was an officer for the NKVD.  After the Great Patriotic War there were a lot of gangs with guns in the Pavlodar region and he had to interrogate those who were causing much unrest in the area.  He would have been on the opposite side of the table as the other grandfather as he was the head of this police station.

Another Kazakh student of mine is from the Karaganda area and she doesn’t know much about her own grandparents.  [this is typical because there was a strict code of silence for all those in Karaganda and especially those who were finally released from the KARLAG once Stalin died]  She said that many intellectual people were sent to Kazakhstan from all over the USSR to the Karaganda region and they helped develop and build the architecture of that city.  Many Japanese, Russians and other nationalities brought enrichment to this area because of their expertise. The very skills that had drawn attention to themselves in a favorable climate, won them disfavor in the eyes of the ruling Moscow elite.

She did remember that her mother’s older brother had driven a tank during WWII and when he returned from the war he worked in a mechanical factory or plant.  When he was alive still she was very small.  She did say that what was a prison for political prisoners in Karabass is now a prison for hardened criminals.

Another interesting story came from a woman whose mother’s uncle was a tall Kazakh man with BLUE eyes.  He was somehow so unusual in his appearance that a German officer didn’t put him in prison but rather he stayed in his big house and helped built things around the house.  He was good with wood and made things for three years while living in Germany.  This Kazakh man spoke German very well but upon his return to Kazakhstan he was directly sent to Magadan in Siberia.  He stayed there ten years and when he returned to his native town he built a beautiful home.  He died at the age of 95-96. This student remembers that he was a vigorous, proud man who didn’t stoop but had good posture the last time she saw him at age 92.  He walked with a cane but had the regal look of a decorated officer, perhaps like the German officer who had spared him from prison camp while in Germany.

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“Why we LOVE the U.S.” (Part IV)

My husband and I love our native land the U.S. of A. The saying “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” is every bit true the longer we live in Astana, Kazakhstan.  I have enjoyed reading a young girl’s account of surviving the steppes of Siberia.  When one lives through a winter in Astana, Kazakhstan you get a taste of what Siberian winters must be like.  I have no doubt that the conditions that deportees and others who were punished for made up crimes in the 1930s and 1940s experienced the rawness of it.  Fortunately we have heat and warm clothes, and food.  Although it is more expensive to ship things to the capital of Kazakhstan.

I’ve been using quotes from a book by Esther Hautzig, titled “The Endless Steppe.” Esther’s father plays an important part in her life throughout the book and I’m to the part where he has left to fight in the Front.  Imagine leaving Siberia to be closer to sure death in war.  Because he knew German they had wanted him but before they wanted him to be a spy in Siberia among his own people, the shreds who were left.  Here is the conversation with his family after he returned from being held by the NVKD.

p. 121 “They wanted me to be a spy…They wanted me to spy on all the Polish people in the village and report on their activities.”  What activities?” I asked. ‘What do you think we do besides try to keep body and soul together? Our activities? Are you mad?”

“You said that, Samuel?” Mother asked, horrified.

“I said that.  I told them that our activities are to feed our families, to keep warm, to keep from being caught in the storms outside.  I talked that way, Raya.  Me. I could hardly believe my own ears, that I had the courage to talk this way to secret police.  I still can’t believe that they didn’t shoot me, that I am here…”

We waited for him to continue. At last he said:  “I also cried.  Like a baby.  For the first time in years.  It was after all the threats–deportation, God knows what.  It was when they were bribing me.  Food.  A better house.  Cigerettes.  I put my head down on the table and and I begged them to stop.  No, I told them, I would not spy on my friends.  I told them they could shoot me…”

I put my arms around Father.  I was proud, very proud of my father.  And I was still very frightened for him.  Would they come back for Tata?”

Accidentally I read the last page of the book written by Esther Hautzig. (Since my 5th grade teacher Miss Nygaard told me to NEVER read the end, I never do) Esther’s father does return from the Front and they do leave Siberia and eventually they went to the U.S. Perhaps that is a whole other book that has not been written.  I hope you have enjoyed the snippets of this book I’ve quoted.  Once I’m finished with “The Endless Steppe,” I’ll send it to my 12 year old nephew, who LOVES to read books.  I can’t imagine him going through what this little 12 year old Esther went through in Siberia.  That’s why we LOVE the U.S., for now, we are protected from the evils that visited the former Soviet Union.  For now.

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KarLAG Buildings in “Stalin’s Neoclassicism” Style

karlag-administration

According to the Museum brochure this structure was built in 1933-35 by forcing 1,000s of prisoners to construct it.  It’s purpose was to house the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), it was an imposing structure of Greek Roman style columns surrounded by little houses in a simple farming village.  This two story building was meant to look threatening to the prisoners but inspire grand feelings in those who did the repressing of “Enemies of the People.”  By 1961 the agricultural training college was placed there and then it was turned into a sanatorium for children called “Brigantina” from 1971 to the early 1990s.  It was planned to be changed into a rest house for miners but after the bankruptcy of that enterprise, the windows were bricked up and it sits waiting to be rehabilitated. As of 2005, the building will hopefully have a new life once the Museum of Memory of Political Repression find enough funds to restore it. 

dining-hall

This was the mess hall or dining room for all the officers and higher ups.  Now a shopping place for those who dwell in Dolinka and was painted purple a year ago.  An unusual color in a place so bleak.

house-of-technics

Either called the “House of Technics” or “Technology House” was built in 1943.  The leadership of GULAG (Main Administration for Corrective Labor Camps) tried to show that prisoners could work very well.  Therefore, the kolkhoz was called Gigant took part in All-Union exhibition every year.  In 1938 the experimental agricultural station was set up here.  This building now houses the Abay district electric nets since 1974.

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