Elena Petrovna A long silence


Elena Petrovna was born in a little village in Ukraine in 1937. In 1944 or 1945, the Soviets arrested her father, believing him to be a Bandera supporter because his surname looked German. He was sent to a camp at Norilsk in the Far North of Siberia. She and her mother were deported to Siberia. Only her brother escaped deportation because he was away when the soldiers came.

Her mother worked in a lumber camp, like many of the deportees in those areas, and her skills as a seamstress enabled her to earn a little more so they could live better than most deportees.

At school, many of the children had lost their fathers at the front. One day, the village children called Elena a Bandera partisan, an enemy of the people. They thought she was a Fascist and responsible for their father’s deaths.

Her father regularly wrote letters to her mother and so did her brother back in their native village. Some of these letters, written shortly before the end of the war, had “Glory to great Stalin” at the bottom. One of them is dated 5 March 1945 (eight years to the day before Stalin’s death). Her father died shortly after Stalin, shortly before he was due to be released. One day, her mother simply said to her, “We’re free”. She learnt no details. She joined the Komsomol youth movement and does not remember any restrictions on her.

Silence, imposed by persistent fear, dominated her whole life until now. She has not told her children her story. She asked for her narrative to be anonymous. Her daughter set out alone to research her origins, her life, her family’s history.