European Memories

of the Gulag


Life at Kengir camp

1. “It was strange there, they took us there and lined us up. I saw people coming back from work grey, covered in dust. The columns made their way forward one after another, 250 in each column, in ranks of five, all holding each other’s arms. You couldn’t walk free, as you wished. You had to hold each other’s arms. Every one numbered, the numbers shining bright, even if they were black. Faces tanned, I looked at them and they all looked like Asians. Out there, it was very hot in summer and the wind tanned us too. People worked in the open air.”

2. “At the start, they kept us in quarantine, it was compulsory for 20 days. There were Lithuanians who came and asked us where we came from, why, how. We immediately joined the underground. The underground organisation there was strong. I was introduced, they asked where I came from, why and how. I said I was a partisan, I’d been captured and arrested. I gained more of their confidence in that way. We joined the struggle straight away.”