European Memories

of the Gulag


Permanent exile

Anatoly’s character was such that the other deportees and people who met him liked him and confided in him. Several times during his story, Anatoly explains that some people he met might have helped him out of exile. In this sequence, he describes the release of the Chinese at the end of the war. Because Sino-Soviet relations had improved, the exiled Chinese were allowed to exchange their old stateless passports for valid new Chinese ones. Wei Chen Sian, a deportee Anatoly had befriended, chose to share this happy moment with him by showing him his new passport. He said he would soon be going home and suggested adopting him so they could set off for this adventure together. Still only a teenager, Anatoly could not see what he would go and do in China, and so felt condemned to permanent exile. Despite his friend’s insistence, Anatoly refused to leave the Komi Republic, which he had clearly become attached to. When the Lithuanian women in the village heard this, they laid into him. Why didn’t he leave? The question still has no answer.