Solidarité Ukraine

European Memories

of the Gulag


From the Altai to the Laptev Sea

David Jozefovich  relates how he was moved by train, lorry, and barge from his first place of deportation at Kamen na Obi (Kamen on the Ob) in the Altai to the shores of the Laptev Sea in the Arctic Ocean:

"In June 1942, they took us off again, as if we hadn’t already lived there enough. They put us on a train to Irkutsk. Then on a goods train, yes, in goods trucks. Gnats again. They didn’t take everyone. Izer, for example, you interviewed him, well, he stayed in Kamen na Obi. Why? They didn’t take that family because the children were still small. Izer was 3 or 4, as was his twin brother. Taking them made no sense. But our family could supply a labour force, you see, my sister was 22, my brother 21, and then there were me and my other sister. So they took us to Irkutsk. I’d like to tell you about an interesting episode on the way. At one railway halt, I still remember the name of even now, it was Taiga, I got out to have a pee, and another man got out of the truck, right, I didn’t step out, we weren’t in passenger coaches, we climbed down from the train on an iron ladder. We went a little way off, and the train began to move and pick up speed. I remember that people held out their hands for us to climb into other trucks, but the train was already going too fast and me and this man, the two of us, were left behind. What to do? We went up to the railway halt, and the staff suggested we got on the following goods train, a train carrying no exiles or prisoners. We got on it and caught up with ours at some other halt.

We arrived in Irkutsk, through which the River Angara flows. They put us on a steamboat, and we sailed down the Angara to a landing stage called, if I remember rightly, Uskut. The landing stage is not far, about 200 km from the River Lena, so the Angara and the Lena are about 200 km apart, and in Siberia, 200 km is not far.

They put us in goods lorries, well, in the trailers, and drove us off, the whole group once it was off the boat, as far as the landing stage on the River Lena, and we sailed down the river to Yakutsk. They loaded us onto barges, in the hold, and we sailed in these barges for 3 days. Then in Yakutsk, they took us off and put us on other barges heading for the Arctic Ocean.

So in autumn 1942, we found ourselves beside the Laptev Sea in the village of Cape Bykov (Bykov Mys). But on the way, people were taken off the barges not only in Cape Bykov but also in Trofimov, Tumat, Tit-Ary, other villages in the Lena delta.

And that’s how our journey from Kamen na Obi to Cape Bykov came to an end."