"Do you think dad is dead or not?" Children write to mothers in the gulag


Photo: Memorial Archive
New valenki, the comedy “Rich Bride”, joining the Komsomol, the lack of paper — all this is written in the GULAG by children whose fathers were shot and their mothers found themselves in camps as members of the traitor’s family.
Henrietta Yoelson-Grodzianska
A girl writes her mother Evdokia Yoelson-Grodzian in the Karaganda labor camp (Karlag). Her father, a native of Minsk, Yevgeny Yoelson-Grodziansky, was a member of the VKP (b) and served as director of the All-Russia Scientific Research Institute of the Refrigeration Industry in Moscow. In December 1937, he was arrested on espionage charges and two months later shot. Three days after the sentence, her husband, Evdokia, was sentenced to eight years in camps as a member of the traitor’s family (ČSIR) - she first went to Temlag in Mordovia, then Segezhlag in Karelia and finally ended up in Karlag (most likely in her Akmola campwives of traitors to the motherland).

Henrietta Yoelson-Grodzian's letter to his mother in Karlag.
Photo: Memorial Archive
26 / XI-44 Doro ... Echka!
Got your letter. Aunt Charlotte got sick. I study not very well, although I try. I watched the movie "Rich Bride." I am the editor of the classroom newspaper "Zateynik". I have small rat tails (braids ?!) on the sides of the head. I have an album for poems. Already, almost all of my girlfriends have written in his memory. But oddly enough, my bosom friend Lera S. did not write! Here I draw a picture for you Tightly whole 10 times in 10 degrees. Hertha.
P.S. Do you think dad is dead or not?

Henrietta Yoelson-Grodzian's letter to his mother in Karlag.
Photo: Memorial Archive
Hello mother! 20 / XI-46
I want to join the Komsomol, write my opinion on this matter, and also write about everything that is going on there. You forgot your “brown” dress here. We shift the stove. Mother Zina tried to stop me from calling her mother, but I gave her a decisive rebuff.
Your daughter Hertha.
The Akmola camp of the wives of traitors to the motherland (ALZHIR) was created by the order of the NKVD at the end of 1937 as a special department of the Karaganda corrective labor camp.The wives of “traitors to the motherland”, who were considered “especially dangerous”, were transferred there. On the territory of ALZHIR, there were nurseries for children under three years of age; more adults were sent to an orphanage in Karaganda.
Victor Sturit
The boy writes to his mother, Christine Ruben, who is serving a sentence in the Akmola camp of the wives of traitors to their homeland (ALZHIR). Christina Ruben was sentenced to eight years in the camps in 1938 - six months after her husband Edward Stourit was shot on charges of participating in a counter-revolutionary terrorist organization. Their son and daughter - Victor Sturit and Aurora Ruben - ended up in an orphanage. Sturit was a member of the party and was in charge of the school section of the Latvian cultural and educational society "Prometheus".

A letter from Victor Sturit to his mother in ALGERIA.
Photo: Memorial Archive
Hello dear mommy why do you write write pisma. Mom, you don't know where dad is. Mom, I'm studying in the 2nd class. Mom, I had a very long time with streakuchim. Mom, I'm alive and well. Mom, you wrote that you had no paper. Mom, I'll send you. Mom, I stole a lot. More than writing is not necessary.
Aurora Ruben
Christina's daughter Ruben writes her mother in ALGERIA; in the letters she mentions her younger brother Victor.

Letter to the daughter of Christina Ruben in ALGERIA.
Photo: Memorial Archive
Mommy, do you have a paper or not? If not then send. We brought new clothes to the children's home. We are girls were given 2 pairs of leotards, 2nd pair of retuzs, 2 shirts, 1 pair of stockings and 1 dress. And boys, new pants, lower. shirts, top shirts, long johns. And stockings. Girls have clothes on their hands. We wash ourselves and when we want to change clothes. And boys are being washed by washers.
Mommy, send envelope and paper. Bye for now. I kiss tightly, firmly.
With pioneer greetings! Waiting for an answer.
3 more years and we will be together! Looking forward to the year 1946.

Letter to the daughter of Christina Ruben in ALGERIA.
Photo: Memorial Archive
with. Census 9 / XII-42
Hello, my dear, my dear Mom! Today I feel particularly good, since I received a letter from you. We live well dressed too well. We are girls were given new coats, new hats with earflaps, retuzas and burkas with galoshes, and some felt boots. But to the boys, the coats were not given new, but last year they sewed and Kubank hats, which were also bought last year, did not give the retuzs the way they had long pants, but they were all given boots. So we are dressed very well. Now we are healthy and ill.Winter is not cold yet, but a lot of snow. Dear mamusinkinka, very glad that you are well dressed. Mom, you probably imagine me tall, no, I'm not very tall, only 139 cm tall.
From our 7th grade, I am the smallest.
Victor, already netakoy, he of course, less than me but not by much. You ask how Rutman live. It is very difficult for them to live; now they live not in Moscow, but near Moscow at the Bykovo station. (Remember, mummy, we went there with a kindergarten for the summer. And the next station will be Ilyinka, where we lived in the country house.) They have their vegetable garden there and in the summer they grew vegetables there. Ilgina's mother works in Moscow, and Ilga studies in Moscow and goes there and back by train every day. Vilik, the younger brother, lives in Bykov, where he goes to school. Their grandmother is alive, she lives with Vilik. The older brother in the army he is in livivisia now he is in hospital. What are they doing?
Mom, I already completely forgot the Latvian language. Only some words I remember. For example, bread.
Daughter Zoya Marchenko
The stenographer Zoya Marchenko, after her second arrest, writes a daughter from the transfer prison - her name “Memorial” has not yet been found out. Marchenko was first arrested in July 1931 and sentenced to three years in a forced labor camp (ITL). The second time she was arrested in 1937 and sentenced to eight years in a labor camp.The third arrest was in January 1949 - this time the woman was sent to perpetual exile. What she was accused of is unknown. In 1956, Marchenko was released and rehabilitated. The first husband of Marchenko, an engineer and member of the CPSU (b) Herman Tubenberger, was arrested in 1936 and shot in 1937. He was accused of participating in an anti-Soviet terrorist organization. Nothing is known about the fate of Marchenko’s second husband.
The letter was written while Zoya Marchenko was in one of the Dalstroy camps in Magadan.

Letter from Zoya Marchenko's daughter to Magadan. Photo: Memorial Archive
II / XI-38
Mommy, I'm leaving finally today. I am glad that I will work, mb, I will contact you soon. I am well.
Viola gollender
15-year-old Viola Gollender writes to her mother Ekaterina Gollender, who by this time has been in ALZHIR for eight years as a member of the family of a traitor to the motherland. Viola's father Alexander Gollender served as chief engineer in the construction of a tractor factory in Stalingrad. In 1936, he was arrested on charges of participating in a counter-revolutionary terrorist organization, and in 1937 he was shot.

A letter from Viola Gollender to his mother in ALGERIA.
Photo: Memorial Archive

A letter from Viola Gollender to his mother in ALGERIA.
Photo: Memorial Archive
27 / IX-45
Hello, dear mom! Hello to you from Moscow! Mom just 7 days ago I turned 15 years old. Already 15! Do not even believe it. How much! Of course, this day was no different from the others and looked like everyone else. In the evening, when I went to bed, I cried, I don’t know why, ... (then the sheet breaks off; the letter continues on the reverse side) ... it will finally come! Mom, what have you become now, probably an old one. I can not imagine you. Already forgot. I was small then - only 7 years old, and now 15 years old. I have no idea how to live with my mother.

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