European Memories

of the Gulag


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Juliana  ZARCHI


Juliana Zarchi was born in Kaunas in 1938 of a Lithuanian father of Jewish origin and a German mother. When Lithuania was invaded by the Nazis, her father fled to the east and was killed by the Einsatzgruppen. While still a little girl she escaped from the Kaunas ghetto and managed to survive the Nazi occupation.

In August 1945, as part of a purge of ethnic Germans, she was forcibly resettled by the Soviets with her mother in Tajikistan in Central Asia, and only returned in 1962. What made her suffer most when they arrived was not the heat or the hunger or the typhus epidemics but the fact that the village children called her a “Fascist”, whereas her father had actually been killed by the Fascists. On her return, she taught German at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas.

Her mother tried all her life to return home to Düsseldorf in Germany. She wrote hundreds of letters to the Soviet authorities but was never authorised to leave the USSR, where she died in Kaunas in 1991.

Since Lithuania has regained its independence, Julia regularly goes to Germany, where she is invited to give talks in schools to tell the story of her family and her experience of the two dictatorships.



Relations with the Tajiks

In these two extracts, Juliana remembers how the Tajik children called the deported children “Fascists” and threw stones at them, her feeling of injustice and relations between the deportees and the Tajiks.


Her escape from the
Kaunas ghetto


The fate of her
father’s family


Arrest, deportation
and arrival


In these two extracts, Juliana remembers when the Soviet political police arrived at their house in Kaunas, her deportation to Tajikistan, her first impressions on arriving in this foreign land in Central Asia and how the resettlers were sent to pick cotton on the kolkhoz.




Identity and heritage


In this extract Juliana explains why she has felt different all her life and uses “they” to mean the Lithuanians, the Russians and the Jews. The only time she uses “we” is when she talks about the deportees.