Solidarité Ukraine
INED Éditions. Archives Sonores, Mémoires européennes du Goulag

European Memories

of the Gulag





Julia Jakubowska was born in 1932 in Wilno (Vilnius) to a working-class family. Her parents and elder brother worked in a goods wagon factory. After eastern Poland was invaded by the Soviet Union and Wilno was transferred to the Soviet republic of Lithuania, Julia’s family took refuge in the countryside and were then displaced to the Urals.

After being amnestied in the summer of 1941, they moved to Uzbekistan. They settled in a kolkhoz and then in a sovkhoz specialising in tobacco growing. Her father and brother David left for Samarkand, where they hoped to find better living conditions. Julia never saw them again. Her little sister died at this time too and she herself fell ill with malaria and malnutrition. After her mother went into hospital, Julia and her three sisters were placed in a Polish orphanage. There Julia learnt Polish, for her mother tongue was Yiddish.

She was repatriated to Poland in 1946 and spent some periods in hospital before resuming her studies in Warsaw. She graduated from teacher training college and hoped to be able to be involved in projects to revive Jewish culture in Poland. She obtained a study grant for Moscow and completed her history studies there. After returning to Warsaw and marrying, she taught history in secondary school until 1989.



Family and childhood

In this extract, Julia talks about her father, a manual worker and trade-unionist, and her mother, attached to Jewish traditions.


The Soviets enter Wilno

Julia describes the confusion of Wilno residents and their uncertainty about the future of their city after the Soviet invasion.


“Refugee”, then “displaced person”, 1940-1941

After the Soviet invasion of Wilno, Julia’s family took refuge in the countryside. She went to a Belarusian school and was then displaced to the Urals; it was when she saw her Russian school friends crying that Julia learnt of Germany’s invasion of the USSR.


Life in Uzbekistan

In this extract, Julia describes the living conditions in an Uzbek kolkhoz and the displaced persons’ relations with the local population.


Crimean Tatar deportees


In Central Asia, Julia discovered other deported peoples.





Julia tells the story of the members of her family separated during and after their forced displacement to the USSR.