Solidarité Ukraine

European Memories

of the Gulag

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The first shower

“They took us straight to the orphanage. First the shower, a sort of collective bath, we’d never seen anything like it, we didn’t know what it was, why the water was running down from above.

I remember we were crying, we didn’t know where to stand. Anyway, the staff came and washed us all.

And then they started to give out the clothes. For me as a girl, this was a great moment.

There was a lady sitting there issuing dresses.

So I stood in front of the lady and she said, ‘Look, little girl. Choose the dress you want.’ So I chose a dress with flowers and edging of a different colour, dark red.

Oh my, I remember, I put it on and looked at myself. I was so happy to have that wonderful dress.

You know, in Siberia we had skirts of oilcloth. The oilcloth from the bags the horses were fed from! My mother had cut some out to make me a little skirt that I fastened with a shoelace. That’s what I wore in Siberia.

And suddenly I was given a dress with flowers on it!”