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elvira kohn

I lived with my mother until her death in 1977. The two of us were very close, and it was difficult for me when she died. I was left alone; I had no relatives, no family of my own. I was also in a dilemma as to how to bury my mother. It was a very difficult decision for me to make.

Many JNA officials and my co-workers came to my mother's funeral. Some gave a speech. I couldn't have a rabbi bury her in front of the party members. And I couldn't have the party members speak in front of a rabbi. The two don't go together. So at last I decided not to have a rabbi at the funeral. It wasn't easy, but there was no other choice. I wasn't allowed to have a Jewish funeral for my mother.

But I did something else. I arranged with the community that for the whole first month after my mother's death, the Kaddish was recited for her every Friday and Saturday. That was something I could do. Even though all the officials knew that I was Jewish, and that my mother was Jewish, I couldn't have both, the Party and the rabbi, at the funeral. And even though I had been retired since 1964, and my mother died in 1977, I was still in the same circle of people, shared the same spirit, and thus wasn't allowed to. That was the spirit of the time.
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Rafael Genis

My son did well at school. Since childhood he wanted to be in construction and he built anything he could - from sand, stones and branches. When he finished school, he entered a construction college and finished it. Petras was never involved in social work. Although, of course, he was a pioneer [16] like all kids of that time. Nevertheless, he wasn't going to join the Komsomol, fearing that he would be refused because of his relatives in the USA, the way it happened with me. In general, all of us were apolitical. The town was small, no events affected it. Everybody minded their own business and cared about the life of their family.
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Nevertheless, my colleagues always had a very good attitude towards me. I had excellent organizational skills and they valued me. I never noticed anti-Semitisms in all those years, neither at work nor beyond it. In 1953 when Stalin died, I was only happy for that, I knew what he was worth since I had been put in the cart with the peoples' enemies [15] during the war. I understood how much trouble that person had brought.
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At that time all the leading positions required either Communist Party or Komsomol [13] membership. I couldn't join the Komsomol in the army as my relatives were living in the USA. When I became an engineer of the commodity base, one of the inspectors at the Ispolkom said that my title envisaged that I should be a member of the Communist Party. I applied for party membership.
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The war was over and I was still wearing my military jacket. I didn't have money to buy civilian clothes. Besides, I wasn't willing to take it off. Now, Lithuania was free and I was eager to go home, but they wouldn't dismiss me. I said that I wanted to go to my motherland to help restore towns and villages, but they told me that a Soviet person had his motherland all over the USSR.
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Then there was an unpleasant incident, which ended up having no consequence. Soldiers from Russia often asked me how I was living in capitalist Lithuania and I honestly and straightforwardly told them that we had a good living - we had a lot of food, abundance in goods and no oppression. I was called to the party organization several times and accused of anti-Soviet propaganda. I tried to explain that I didn't concoct anything. I was arrested and kept in custody for 14 days along with other 'anti-Soviets' - the wardens of the liberated villages etc. We were put in a guarded cart. They gave us no arms and no explanations. Finally, they either clarified things, or didn't have time for that, or my proletarian origin worked, I was released all of a sudden and sent to the regiment. I will never forget those two weeks of fear and consternation.
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In the late June of 1940 the Soviets came to the Baltics [5]. My parents took it calmly and didn't discuss this issue with us. A Russian officer was housed in one of our rooms, but our store was not taken form us. At first, our lives practically didn't change. Our town wasn't affected by repressions and arrests [6] and deportation [7]. Nevertheless, life was getting worse. Many products vanished from the stores. People only bought primary goods because of high prices. I was thinking of how I could help my family.
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At times I helped my master with anti-religious propaganda. I think he was an underground Communist or a Communists sympathizer. At times he gave me flyers to disseminate. There were times when we tied red fabric to stones and flung them at electric wires, there was a blackout and the fabric was torn into pieces. The next morning the whole town was strewn with small red flags. I did it unquestioningly just satisfying my master's request and fortunately I wasn't caught, otherwise I would have been arrested like many other underground Communists.
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Krystyna Budnicka

In 1968 I got another job, but not because anyone forced me out - I simply found a better job, and one that was in Warsaw, so I didn't have to travel. And that year, in 1968, I made many trips to Gdanski Station [in Warsaw], which was where people left for Israel. I said goodbye to many people then, and cried. But I didn't have the feeling that it was anti-Semitism among the Poles that was driving them away. I blamed the communist system; after all, it was because of the authorities that these people were losing their jobs, it was communist agitators who were screaming at rallies for Jews to go to Zion. That system persecuted us in various ways, and anti-Semitism was just one of its methods.
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Janina Duda

I hate informers, although I understand that sometimes you need to use them, but not in this case. I voted against his expulsion from the party. So I was reprimanded. It was only a reprimand, because I had been a partisan and the chief of my district was Korczynski, so they were scared to do anything more. But they later asked me in the district party headquarters if I felt I had been harmed. So I just told them one thing, ‘You know what, I worked in the ministry of security, I understand they have to use informers there, but you in the party structures?’ That really is what I told them. So I didn’t leave and wasn’t planning on leaving. Just like that.
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Some people can be quite mad when it comes to the ministry of security. I am walking with a woman, a Jew from Lublin, who was saved by my friends from TUR and she says, ‘You know, this hospital is ubecki.’ [Editor’s note: Ubecki: Polish, adjective formed from the abbreviation UB – Ministry of Security, slang name for the Security Office (UB) – the secret police] And after all, excuse my language, her butt was saved. I worked in the ministry of security, so many people were helped. I worked in that police. But does that mean my conscience isn’t clear?
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There were no losses in the family, because of Stalin’s regime [nobody died during the Holocaust]. And he explained to me that he had a job, that he appreciated how they cared for workers, how they cared for people. When I got there, the first thing he did was show me Lenin, there in that mausoleum [Red Square, Moscow, the present stone mausoleum was built in 1929-1930, architect: A.V.Shchusev], then we went to see the Soviet officer’s house, which was a very beautiful building [Editor’s note: probably this building is a simple lodging house for state officers]. And he showed me Moscow.
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Alexandra Ribush

My world view changed bit by bit. By the time perestroika started I was almost completely disappointed in everything we had been taught, in every single dogma that had been imposed on us. When the democratic changes began in this country with Gorbachev [18], I was ready to accept the changes and stopped believing in communism being our bright future. After the country fell apart we at first trusted Gaidar's government reforms and believed that he would be able to do something. Later all those political games began to bore us. I ceased paying attention to them. I simply live today, the moment. I see my friends and relatives though our relations develop in different ways.
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First doubts came to my mind when I was a student at the institute. We studied Clause IV of the 'Short Historical Course of the All-Union Communist Party (b)'. The clause was related to the Marxism-Leninism philosophy. Our teacher very passionately told us that no one had been able to write such a Clause, so comrade Stalin had written it himself. He appeared to be the only decent man of all, concealed his authorship, never told anyone about it because he was very modest. Immediately a question arose for me. What kind of modest person could he be if he called himself the father of genius, etc. So these were the doubts I had. I at once recalled my school teachers' disputes, which we had overheard in our childhood. However, those doubts were quite vague, since I was absolutely Soviet. I believed that dad had been slandered and it had nothing to do with Stalin. The policy of the Party was quite definite but I knew that dad hadn't been able to act against the Party and I thought that he had been slandered. That was what I thought at that time, though later on I reached other conclusions.
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I felt oppression because my father was declared an enemy of the people. I wasn't allowed to choose the profession I was interested in. I was accepted to the faculty where they didn't have enough students. I didn't get what I chose, but something I was allowed or assigned to. For instance: all my co-students at university went to do practical work at the Kuznetsk metallurgical combine. I wasn't allowed to go since the enterprise belonged to the 1st category of secrecy [see access to state secret] [15]. So I had to do my practical work at a small mechanical plant in Tomsk.

When I graduated from university in 1951 I was deprived of the right to continue my post-graduate studies, as I was the daughter of an enemy of the people. The fact that I was a Jewess, my nationality, didn't mean anything: children of enemies of the people, who were Russian by nationality weren't accepted either, and literally weren't allowed to live a normal life. The 'enemy of the people' was not simply a national problem, but a social and a political one. I was assigned to work in a laboratory of the V.V. Kuibyshev heavy engineering plant in Irkutsk. There was no possibility to choose either. In general there was a wide choice, but I was only allowed to go to either Krasnoyarsk or Irkutsk. So I worked there up until 1958. It was a laboratory plant. I worked there as a senior engineer in the laboratory of the physical metallurgy. My responsibility was to determine solidity and durability. If something got broken because of some hidden flaw, I was supposed to detect the flaw.
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