European Memories

of the Gulag

BioGraphie

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Vladimir  SIDERSKI

Vladimir Siderski was born in 1926. He was the son of a revolutionary who held high political and administrative offices in Ukraine and was shot in 1937. So he was considered to be the son of an enemy of the people. He saw the start of the war in Kiev and was evacuated to Siberia, and then to Tomsk and Moscow. He left for Siberia without his mother, because she was the wife of an enemy of the people and, as a “friend of the Germans”, was not allowed to leave the city. She died there of typhus.

In April 1945, he raised questions about the Stalin purges, was arrested and sentenced to labour camp. He was sent to Rybinsk and then to Pechora, where he spent several years. He thinks he “was lucky”, because after a while he began to enjoy better living conditions than the other prisoners.

When he was released in 1951, he returned to Ukraine but was forbidden to reside in Kiev, other major cities in Ukraine and border areas. He got a job in Chernigov, although his past occasionally caught up with him. Then he returned to Kiev and is now a member of the rehabilitation commission for purge victims.

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His father’s arrest

“If someone was arrested, whether for political or criminal reasons, a search warrant was issued. When they arrested my father, it was in the street. He had been put forward as a candidate for the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. This was in 1937, after Stalin’s Constitution. The first elections to the Supreme Soviet were held on 1937, and my father went off to see his electors. At that time, there was generally only one candidate. He went off, and I accompanied him to the station with his assistant.
Two or three days passed (I only heard this later, Mother told me), he got a telephone call from the Party’s district committee telling him to come back, they even sent him a car and showed him a telegram from Kosior: ‘Withdraw your candidacy on some pretext and return immediately to Kiev’. He came home, got shaved, and went to work. When he got out of his car near the Ministry of Agriculture, they were waiting for him and asked him to get into another car. [silence]
I was at school at the time. I came home, my mother opened the door and said, ‘Vovka, stay calm, the house is being searched.’ [silence]
The search went on. They looked at everything; it wasn’t the way some people say, with everything turned upside-down. Nothing like that. It all happened properly, er, normally. They looked; of course at the start they asked where the guns were. My father had two pistols, from the Civil War, or perhaps not, I don’t know exactly, so first the guns, that’s quite natural, that was it. Then they collected all my father’s personal affairs. We were living in a house where everything belonged to the State.
My father was of average height, and at that time I was about the same height, and my mother turned to the officer in charge of the search and asked, ‘Can my son keep some of his father’s clothes?’ – ‘Please, take what you think is necessary’. She took a leather coat, which I later wore at the Institute, some shoes, two or three ties. We had a library, about three thousand books; my mother asked if she could keep some literature, ‘Please, take some’. She took the six volumes of Pushkin published by the Academy of Sciences for the centenary of his death. I kept them, because there’s my father’s signature on them. So that’s how the search went. There was also a man in that brigade who put something in his pocket, his chief kicked him out and said, ‘I’ll sort you out later’.
On the other hand, I do know that in some houses there were thefts and everything was turned upside-down. That was a nightmare.”