European Memories

of the Gulag

BioGraphie

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Lilija  KAIJONE

Lilija Kaijone was born in 1932, the daughter of a local historic leader of the Aizsargi, a paramilitary organisation formed during the Latvian war of independence that back the authoritarian regime of Kārlis Ulmanis (1934-1940). The hierarchy of the organisation was soon targeted by Soviet repression and Lilija’s family were evicted from their home.

On 14 June 1941, the family was arrested and separated. Her father was sentenced to forced labour and did not survive. Lilija, her mother, brother and sisters were deported to the Krasnoyarsk region. Her little brother died there, her mother and the three girls suffered hunger and illness. In 1946, Lilija and her sisters were allowed to return to Latvia, as part of a measure concerning Latvian and Estonian orphans and half-orphans, and were fostered by their aunt. Lilija went back to school, and then on to the faculty of philology. She worked as a cleaner in a theatre, then as a librarian and archivist. Her mother returned in 1957 under the amnesty for all the special settlers.

This interview was recorded with her sister Austra Zalcmane.

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La famille d’Austra et de Lilija

Austra et Lilija ont conservé, grâce à leurs oncles et tantes, des photos d’avant-guerre représentant leurs parents, accompagnés de leurs enfants.

Leur père était le chef local d’une organisation d’aizsargi, on le voit sur les photos (au centre) en compagnie de ses subordonnés.

Leur maison et les images d’enfance constituent aujourd’hui les vestiges de la période présoviétique.

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Last Christmas as a family

Lilija Kaijone remembers the last Christmas they spent as a family and her father’s sad intuitions.

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Austra and Lilija describe their arrest in June 1941

Others feared the worst – such as Austra et Lilija’s father, who thought that he and his family would immediately be shot. They were arrested in the middle of the night, and the children left with only the clothes they stood up in.

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The first days of deportation

At first, during summer 1941, Austra and Lilija were disliked by the village children, who ran after them and threw stones. The deportees were blamed for the war starting and were thought to be fascist collaborators. But things soon got better.

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The geese

The sovkhoz director, a good man allowed the children to do little jobs for a handful of bread. Lilija and her sisters were given the geese to look after.

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The sisters remember the forest

 While their mother was working, Austra and Lilija picked berries in the forest. They remember with emotion their feelings in the woods.

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Return to Latvia

The sisters describe their return, alone, after the war. Like other orphans and half-orphans, the Zalcmane sisters were allowed to return home to Latvia and were placed in an orphanage. Austra remembers a dress she fancied…

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Administrative documents

Like many other deportees, Astra has kept the documents relating to their family history. For example, her father’s death certificate, which her mother finally got in 1947, the documents rehabilitating the family in the 1990s, and the replies from the administration concerning their family home, nationalised in March 1941.