Childhood in the Gulag

 

After the Red Army’s advance into Eastern Poland and the Baltic states, waves of deportation begin in 1940. Families are sent with their children to remote villages in Siberia and Central Asia; children are born there. Although some go to school, most have to work. Some spend time in orphanages.

From 1944, as the Soviets move back towards the west, hundreds of thousands of farming families are deported and a large number of children and adolescents are arrested, interrogated, found guilty of “nationalism” or “espionage” and sentenced to long periods of forced labour in the camps of the Gulag.

Deportation and life in the camp become the background to the early socialisation of an entire generation of Europeans and leave a mark on their childhood.

The voices and stories of the witnesses reveal the unique intensity of an experience in which fear, pain, hunger and cold are mixed with amazement at discovering a new country, sharing games and moments of happiness; an experience that they now see as a decisive lesson for their entire lives.