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Alexandra Ribush

In 1937 dad was arrested on the basis of slanderous denunciation. Mother was arrested right after him as the wife of an 'enemy of the people' [8]. There existed this term: members of the parricides' families. They were accused of knowing, but not informing the authorities about the 'criminal design'. My mother stayed in prison for five years at Yaya station, as the wife of a repressed one; it was a wide spread phenomenon. After the camp she was forced to work as a physician for the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA]. After the arrest and the verdict my father stayed in prison for nine years; at first in a camp in Magadan, where he worked as a stoker in a bath- house. My father was a professor, a neurosurgeon, he knew several languages and got this job 'unofficially'. Those who fulfilled the required amount of work at the timber processing sites, basically didn't survive.
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My parents couldn't get me acquainted with the members of our family since they were subject to repression [during the so-called Great Terror] [3] and were imprisoned while I was a small girl. I know our relatives only from pictures which my mum collected when she came back from imprisonment.
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Vladimir Tarskiy

In the late 1930s our family faced a number of disasters. My father became the first victim. He was deputy chief of the political department of the South-Eastern Railroad and executive editor of the ‘Vperyod’ [‘Go forward’] communist newspaper. On 13th May 1937 he was sentenced to ten years in prison for ‘anti-Soviet propaganda and illegal possession of weapons’. According to the information of the chief information center of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the RF, my father ‘died in prison on 10th January 1938; location unknown’.

The next victim was my stepfather, sentenced to ten years in prison on 16th July 1937 for ‘sabotage and participation in the anti-Soviet Trotskist organization’. In September my mother was notified on the ‘compaction of her living conditions due to her husband’s arrest’. My mother submitted a claim to the court referring to her having three children. On 3rd November official representatives made their appearance in our apartment with a search and arrest warrant. A Special Council of the NKVD [12] USSR sentenced my mother to ‘eight years in penitentiary camps as a member of the family of an enemy of the people’ [13]. My mother was taken away that same night.
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My mother’s brother Philip, called Fishka in the family, was not so accessible. He was born in 1885. He was a trade representative in the Soviet Embassy in London, traveled to Moscow and stayed in a suite in the Metropol Hotel. Later he was deputy minister of foreign trade and deputy minister of forestry. He vanished in the Gulag camps in 1937.
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My father’s older sister Alexandra was born in the 1870s. She was actively involved in underground revolutionary activities. She became Trotsky’s [1] wife in the 1890s. According to my mother, my father didn’t speak well of Trotsky. Probably the reason was that he left his sister with two children. Also, the shadow of Trotsky probably fell on him as well as his brother Ilia and his sister Alexandra who all perished in the Gulag [2] during the period of Stalin’s arrests [the so-called Great Terror] [3]. They were blamed of relations with Trotsky, who was in disgrace, and sent to the Gulag.
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Eva Ryzhevskaya

In the middle of the 1930s repressions began [during the Great Terror] [19], reaching their peak in the year 1937. There were many articles in the papers and radio broadcasts on divulged saboteurs, the enemy of the Soviet regime, the so-called enemy of the people [20]. Key military commanders, party and state activists were arrested. We believed in things we were told. We were blind, and tried not to notice the obvious. Though, now it is obvious to me. Back then we didn't question official information. Our belief in the Party and in Stalin gave no grounds for doubts. Sometimes, we discussed the topic of arrests, but we never questioned the guilt of the arrested.
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Arnold Fabrikant

His sister, Yekaterina Yampolskaya, was a revolutionary: in 1918 she worked in Lenin's secretarial office; she knew him personally. She was married to the chief editor of the Pravda newspaper [The paper of the Communist Party of the USSR]. She was arrested in 1937 as the wife of an 'enemy of the people' [19]. She was kept in camps for 20 years, released in 1957 and rehabilitated later [see Rehabilitation in the Soviet Union] [20]. She received an apartment in Moscow.
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We exchanged two rooms of the existing four rooms for Kiev so that my father had a place to live there. My father's friend in Kiev was another notable professor whose name I don't remember. He was arrested all of a sudden. My father went to the inquest body to give his guarantee that this professor was innocent. And strangely enough, they listened to him, and released his friend. My father and I visited him shortly afterward. This professor, a philatelist, gave me an album with stamps and I contracted from him the passion for collecting stamps for the rest of my life.
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The arrests of 1937 [during the so-called Great Terror] [9] had no impact on my parents. They never discussed this subject with me. None of their acquaintances suffered either. Two families were arrested in our house. In 1938 Strazhesko, the greatest physician at the time invited my father to Kiev.
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Isroel Lempertas

In 1938-39 pro-Nazi public opinion was streamlined in Lithuania. The teacher of arts, a Lithuanian, called upon fascism among youth. I do not know who of them did it, but each morning there were anti-Semitist posters in the lobby of lyceum, namely a Jew with a 'snoot', plaits, distorted appearance and clothes, with a humped back. Those posters were removed, but next morning they appeared again. I know for sure that two guys from that circle shot Jews, including their classmates in 1941 during one of Hitler's actions. There was a very beautiful girl in our class, the daughter of the director of Jewish bank, Kock Glikman. Many guys wooed her, including one of those guys. She did not want to go with him and he shot her with his own hands during one of the actions in 1941. Many people, at least our family, understood, that fascism would bring calamity to our country and many people looked up to USSR. I am not sure if my father knew about political processes and repressions carried out by Stalin in USSR [Great Terror] [13]. He had never talked to me about it.
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Nachman Elencwajg

At that point one of the women ran after me and told me my uncle had been taken. Meaning arrested. And that back in 1937 when a campaign was launched against the Trotskyists [13]. [Editor's note: Stalin carried out a major purge of Leo Trotsky's supporters in 1937. Cf. Great Terror [14]]. Because he was an avowed Trotskyist.
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Anna Ivankovitser

The arrests began in 1936. [The interviewee is referring to the so-called Great Terror.] [9] They lasted until the war. They usually came for people at night. When we heard loud knocking on a door, we knew that they came for someone. Our family did not suffer from the arrests. Nobody in Shargorod knew anything about our 'criminal' bourgeois past. My father was much respected in Shargorod. Well, as they say, the Lord was merciful to us.
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Boris Dorfman

I was allowed to bring some food to my parents, but I couldn't see them and they weren't allowed to have an attorney. Shortly before the Great Patriotic War, in late May 1941, eleven months after they had been arrested, I received a statement from a special meeting of the NKVD [14] about preventive punishment of particularly dangerous 'enemies' of the Soviet power. My parents were sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment and deprived of their right to correspond with their families. My mother was sentenced on the charges of being a Zionist and bourgeois chauvinist and my father was sentenced for being a capitalist. My father was sent to Karaganda camp [on the Gulag] [15], in Kazakhstan [2,800 km from Kiev] and my mother was sent to Solikamsk camp in the Ural. I wasn't allowed to visit my father and never saw him again. He died in 1942, but we only got to know this after we received his rehabilitation [16] papers some time after 1956. It was stated that he had cardiac insufficiency and tuberculosis and that he was buried in grave #31 at a certain location. We looked it up on a map, but couldn't find it. I was allowed to see my mother before her departure to Solikamsk. She looked exhausted, but she didn't lose her spirits. We promised each other to keep in touch.
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My sister Polia, Pesia in Jewish, was born in 1926. [Polia was her common name.] [10] My mother was always busy and my sister spent a lot of time with Grandfather Aaron and Aunt Liya. When my parents were arrested in 1939 my sister stayed with my grandfather and aunt.
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Alla Kolton

Already in pre-war time people understood everything that happened in the country. The majority of father's friends were arrested before the war and were serving their terms in camps and prisons, accused of espionage: some were declared German spies, others, French spies, and so on. Daddy was lucky with his factory situation because his boss, understanding what was going on in the country, and knowing father's biography, regularly gave him half-year business trips to the countryside far from the city to somewhere in the center of Russia. The company was installing a telephone cable there. During mass persecutions he was always sent on business trips. The boss was Russian, and they always respected each other. The people of that generation were internationalists, and we were brought up this way too: there was no difference for us between a Russian, a Jew or an Armenian.
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