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Rafael Genis

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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Eva Ryzhevskaya

In the late 1920s collectivization started. Our village was also affected by it. The Soviet regime divided all peasants into three categories: kulak [14], middle and poor. Our family belonged to the third category, and we had nothing to lose. There were so-called kulaks in our village - hard- working people, whose families, including children, were involved in hard agricultural labor from morning till night. Of course, they had good houses, horses and cows. Everything was taken away from those people, and they were sent to Siberia. We weren't touched, as there was nothing they could have taken from us. The kolkhoz was founded after the dispossession of the kulaks.
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Isroel Lempertas

We arrived in the town of Kirov [850 km to the east from Moscow]. First we settled at the evacuation point. We were kept there for couple of days. The so-called 'buyers' - the chairman of kolkhoz [16] and construction supervisors came there. As a rule they selected young people. In a while we and the family aunt Shifra were sent to some kolkhoz in Kirov oblast. First I was involved in agricultural works and then in carpentry. Father was confined to bed because of illnesses and hunger and died in late 1941. At that time aunt Anna and Rina came from Moscow. She also went to work at kolkhoz. All of us lived in one room in the house of the local kolkhoz people. They treated us really well, but the food was catastrophically scarce though I got trudodni [17] and ration and mother received tiny dependent's ration. I dreamt of studies in spite of the war. I still thought of entering the institute. When Moscow Teachers' Training Institute was evacuated in Kirov, I was enrolled for the first course of Physics and Mathematics department. I was not exactly what I was dreaming about- to become a historian or a philosopher, but I was not to choose. I lived in the hostel of the institute in Kirov. Mother really suffered when father died. She often was unwell. I managed to make arrangements for my mother to have a room in my hospital. She was hired as a cleaner in the hostel and was given a room there. She also was on duty in the hostel. My student life went by very fast. It was easy for me to study and I did well. We lived in a cold hostel like one family, we shared everything we had. Everyday with bated breath we listened to the round-ups from the lines. Guys of all kinds of nationalities studied with me, but our friendship was cemented because of our common grief. There were no discords. I had studied only for a year and a half. At the beginning of 1943 my brother and I were drafted in the front-line forces. My brother worked at some military plant all the time and he came to the military enlistment office on numerous occasions, but he was not drafted, and now was the time.
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Dina Kuremaa

I got married in 1956. I met my future husband, Raymond Kuremaa, with the help of my neighbors, an Estonian family. Raymond was their relative. On 31st December 1945 he came to congratulate his relatives on New Year. He rang the bell, and I opened the door. He looked at me and asked who I was. I said that I had lived there since my arrival from evacuation. He introduced himself and said that he had come to see his relatives. Then my neighbor came up to me and said that Raymond wanted to congratulate me on New Year. That was the way we met. From time to time we saw each other, went for a walk, to the cinema. I had known Raymond for eleven years before we got married. We were just friends. If someone told me about our getting married, I would only laugh.

Raymond was born in a hamlet in Raplass district of Estonia in 1924. His parents owned a farm, cultivated land and bred cows. When Estonia became Soviet, all property of Raymond's parents was taken over by a kolkhoz. Raymond's elder brother, who was 18 in 1941, was in hiding in the forest, when the Germans came to Estonia - he was not willing to join the German army. Then he came home to his parents, and someone told on him to the NKVD. When they came to arrest him, they found a rifle in his house. He was sentenced to 25 years and nobody believed that he was fighting against Soviet troops, and he was given an additional five years for keeping a weapon. He spent almost ten years in the Gulag, somewhere in Kolyma [32]. Only after Stalin's death, when the commission on retrial of the convicts' cases considered his case, he was released since there was no corpus delicti. He came back home in 1956 and attended our wedding.
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When the Soviet regime came to power in Estonia, our life changed. Our Jewish lyceum was closed down and remade into a Jewish school with the teaching in Yiddish. All of us became pioneers [10]. At that time I didn't quite understand what it was all about. I did what others did and became a pioneer like others. The new-comers from the Soviet Union were housed in the apartments of other people, but it didn't happen with us, maybe they didn't have time for it.

My father's workshop was nationalized and turned into a cobblers' artel [11]. Father transferred all equipment to the artel and kept on working there. Strange as it may be our family avoided deportation, carried out by the Soviet regime on 14th June 1941 [12]. A lot of people who used to own stores and workshops were exiled to Siberia from Estonia within one day. Men were sent to the Gulag [13], and their families were exiled. Now I wonder how come our family was not touched. Maybe several stages of deportation were planned and the unleashed war was in the way of that process.
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Amalia Laufer

In 1940 the Soviet army came to Poland and the country was divided. A bigger part of the Carpathians, Belarus and Zakarpatiye became a part of the USSR. The Soviet power came to Kabaki and took land away from the richer families.
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Anna Ivankovitser

In 1927 my parents and sister moved to Shargorod. People living in villages didn't have passports at that time. This means they didn't have the right to vote. Without a passport they couldn't get a job. This meant that they could only be employed in farming. This law was issued by the Soviet authorities in order to tie miserably poor villagers to the land and force them to work at collective farms [3] like slaves, leaving them no opportunity to move to towns. At that time poor people had all priorities with the Soviet power. They were nominated to all the highest positions. My father didn't come from a wealthy family.
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Leon Glazer

The house they lived in on Kalwaryjska was very big and belonged to my uncle. Anyway, it was sold straight after the war, before the nationalization decree.
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Boris Dorfman

I witnessed another tragic event in Kishinev. Many Moldavian and Ukrainian families were deported from their homes during this period [1947-1949]. They were wealthy families who worked hard to make a decent living. After the Great Patriotic War they recovered their wealth, but they didn't want to join collective farms. I don't think they really had much to give away at that time, but the state wanted to take away their grain stocks. I was to be the representative of my company responsible for collecting grain stocks. There were two NKVD officers to escort me and we were to go to the villagers, who were told that resisting to deliver food supplies made them enemies of the Soviet power. NKVD officers had the list of villagers and I was just supposed to attend these actions. If a family wasn't at home we went to another house. Families were taken by cattle transportation trains. They were given no time to get ready for the trip. I don't know exactly where they were taken - I believe, somewhere to the north. I never met anybody who returned home from there. It was the period of a horrific famine. People were starving to death. There were many dead people in towns and villages.
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The Soviet authorities gave our school the status of a college. I was on vacation when my parents were arrested. Our neighbors sent me a message saying that I shouldn't show up at home since I might be arrested, too. I watched from a distance how they loaded money, gold, furniture and pictures onto trucks. They were communist officials who arrived in the area along with the Soviet army. They were traditionally called 'Easteners'. [Editor's note: the Soviet Union was east of Kishinev.] They moved into our houses. I was allowed to take my warm clothes when winter approached.
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My grandfather's life ended tragically. When Soviet troops occupied Bessarabia in 1939 my grandfather and most of his children were declared kulaks [5]. The Soviet regime dispossessed them of what they had earned by working hard. Simply speaking, they robbed them in favor of the state.
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henryk lewandowski

After the nationalization he applied to immigrate to Israel but they weren't giving permissions anymore, he didn't leave until after October 1956 [49], when it became legal again.
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Cilja Laud

In 1948, when campaigns against cosmopolitans [20] began in the Soviet Union, we did not have them, but we had the same collectivization [21], as in the USSR of the 1930s. Estonian peasants were compelled to join kolkhozes [22]. They did not think that it was merely impossible for Estonians. They had a different mentality - they were used to live out of town at their own farmsteads and have their own husbandry. Though the land was very poor and stony in Estonia, the crops were high as Estonians are hard working people and put their heart and soul in work. People did not want to get united in one kolkhoz as it was strange for them.

Then Estonia started another deportation. Peasants were exiled to Siberia only for their desire to be the hosts in their own land, and do what they were good at. Entire Estonian families were deported and farmsteads were forsaken at first, but soon new hosts appeared there. Then they also deported those who happened to come from the exile in 1941. Not only men, but young boys were exiled.
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Liya Kaplan

My father's store was confiscated. He was a kind man and treated his employees very well; he was loved by everybody. When my father was told to give the keys of the store to a commissar [21] who had been assigned to run the store, all the workers started to talk the commissar into letting my father stay, but my father wasn't willing to. It was the end of our trouble.

When we were still in our house, one man came and told Father to pay a huge tax to the state. I don't remember the exact amount. When my father asked why he was supposed to pay, since his store had been taken, the man just told him not to ask silly questions and give the money. My mother gave him her jewelry and he left. In two weeks he showed up again and named a new sum for the tax. My mother gave away her diamond rings. When he came for the third time we were in Nomme. He said that we were supposed to give the state all our precious belongings, table silverware and so on. My mother gave him everything and my parents were nervously awaiting another visit. They packed a suitcase and when a car passed by our house, we feared that it was the NKVD [22] coming after us.

The 14th of June 1941 was a dreadful day, remembered in Estonian history as the day of deportation [23]. It was the day when the Soviet regime exiled over 10,000 Estonian citizens to Siberia. There were Jews among them, but most of those exiled were Estonians. The majority of those exiled were political activists and soldiers of the Estonian army. They were arrested before, but exiled on that day. Intelligentsia and wealthy people were also exiled. There were people who were exiled by accident. It must have been the case that some people were included in the list simply because they were disliked.

My mother's brother Nisson Tsipikov and his family were also exiled, though they were poor people. My uncle was in the Gulag. Every day they had to walk to the work site, 20 kilometers from the camp. My uncle was involved in timbering, he cut trees. He had never done anything like this before, and he barely survived there. His teeth fell out and he became unable to do any work. By a miracle, Nisson was exempt from the camp due to poor health. He didn't live long though; he died in the 1950s. His wife died in exile as well.
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In 1940, the communists came to power with the help of Soviet troops. There were demonstrations of the workers, accompanied by Soviet tanks. The government resigned and the parliament was dissolved and preterm elections were announced. The communists won the elections by a majority vote. The Estonian Soviet Republic was established right away and Soviet Estonia officially became one of the Soviet republics. That was how all the Baltic countries were occupied [20].

When a number of people came to Estonia from the USSR, anti-Semitism became more common, mostly due to the newcomers. It seems to me that anti-Semitism was always present in Russia and was natural for citizens of the USSR. They were the ones who brought it into our country.

We immediately felt that a new regime had come to power. Somebody rang on our door and a Soviet colonel came in carrying a bed. He said that the municipal authorities had told him to take one room in our house. My parents gave him the largest room and he moved in there. After a while another soldier came and told us to vacate our apartment within two days. Our house was nationalized; it was needed by the Soviet regime, who decided to make a hospital there. We, the former bourgeois, had to leave there at once. My father found a small house in a beautiful suburb of Tallinn, called N?mme, so we moved there.

Of course, my parents were not delighted by the new regime, like most Estonian people. Only the communists, who were in the underground during the Estonian republic, were rejoicing as they wanted the Soviet regime. Our standards of living were pretty good before the Soviets came. Those who were working earned enough for a comfortable living. It was definitely hard to find a good job, but it was possible if a person wanted work and had skills. Food was cheap. Even if there weren't enough delicacies, there was potato, sprat and bread in every house. So, people wouldn't starve to death.
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