of the Gulag
Jakow Shats: work in deportation (VF)
"They ordered us out of the train and onto buses and took us north of Kansk [Канск] in Taseevo district ([Тасеевский райог]. There, they found us accommodation with local people, took our passports away and gave my father a paper to report with every week. That is how our life in Siberia began.
My parents were not allowed to do intellectual work, they had no authorisation. They could only do very hard physical tasks, such as work in forestry, kolkhoz or camps. Remember that all of us deportees were townsfolk, not used to hard labour in the fields.
Remember, too, that in that region it is very cold in winter, down to minus 50°C. We were not prepared for the cold; we’d been arrested and deported in June and hadn’t brought any warm clothes with us; there were major supply problems, the locals also suffered from the lack of food, and a lot of deportees who didn’t manage to sell or barter clothes died of hunger.
Q. Did you go to school?
I didn’t go to school because I had no warm clothes to go out in; in winter you had to have fur coats, hats, warm boots, and I didn’t have any; so for three years I couldn’t go to school and it wasn’t until 1944 that my parents could afford to buy clothes, so I then went to school for two years. We spent five years in Siberia.
Q. You didn’t go to school. What did you and your sister do?
All of us in the family worked, my parents started working because if you didn’t work you had no money and you couldn’t afford the essentials. My mother worked, my sister worked. In 1943 my elder sister was drafted again and sent further to the east, where a railway line was being built.
Q. What work did your family do in the Krasnoyarsk region?
We felled trees, my second sister was drafted to help with floating timber downstream. I was younger than 18, under age, but I went working too with my mother in the fields on the kolkhoz, I helped my mother during the harvest and took part in the fieldwork in that way."