European Memories

of the Gulag


The journey back

“The problem was that we were 30 women surrounded by 2,500 men. Just think: walking alone through all those men. We didn’t really dare go out because it was terrible all the same. Not all the women were young, there were about twenty my age and the others were older. But when I walked out through the door, the men were there outside in a line: they all wanted to get to know me. They weren’t brutal but we were afraid anyway, because... and from there we were taken, we the women, to Kiev to a big empty building belonging to a hospital. Some days later, sick soldiers were put in the other empty building opposite ours. Most of them had lung diseases. But it was better that way: we were separated, each group had its own yard marked off with barbed wire that we could talk across. That was a bit more interesting: ‘Where have you come from? Where’s your home? What are you going to do?’”