of the Gulag
“I was bringing water back to the house. Mother said, ‘We’ll die if this goes on! Come on, let’s go to Ukraine.’ She didn’t ask what we thought. We were young then; she took someone’s sleigh and off we went. She put us in the sleigh and wrapped us up. She wrapped up my elder brother, the one who’s in St Petersburg now; she tore up a dress and wrapped him in it.
It was freezing, and we got to the Yadrikha railway station, and she put us on the train. On the train some people felt sorry for us and gave us a bit of food, and when we arrived, everyone could see that Mother was bloated with hunger and so were we. We were frozen, everything was frozen, my hands, my feet, and that’s why they still hurt even now.
We had nothing, nothing at all. Then Mother said, ‘We’ll die like this; let’s go back to Ukraine.’ [Question] Mother had a silk shawl and she gave it to the woman working at the station in exchange for a ticket. There are some nice people — there are some — you can’t say that everyone is bad. People gave us food. They realised we were escaping, Mother told them, and anyway it was obvious; we were in a normal train with normal carriages. We went via Moscow, we crossed Moscow in a lorry from one station to another, because the ticket covered the whole journey and that’s how we came home.”