Haya-Lea Detinko -- Surviving Stalin's Gulag

Haya-Lea was born in 1920 in Rovno, which then belonged to Poland. She grew up in a traditional Jewish family, joined a Zionist youth club called Hashomer Hatzair and looked forward to emigrating to Palestine, just like her sister. But the Soviets took eastern Poland in September 1939 and Haya-Lea's membership in Hashomer Hatzair earned her a ten year sentence of hard labor in Siberia. The rest of her family remained behind, not knowing that the Nazis would overrun the town soon after Haya-Lea's deportation to the east. Haya-Lea survived the Gulag and moved to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), where she shared her story with Centropa in 2002. This film is dedicated to Haya-Lea, who died shortly after the interview.

Study Guides


Haya-Lea grew up in the city of Rovno, then in Poland. The city is now located in the Ukraine, and is called Rivne. Explore this website to learn more about the history of Poland.


The Second World War began with the invasion of Poland. On the 1st of September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. As per the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Soviet forces invaded and occupied East-Poland two weeks later. Read about Jewish refugees in Soviet-occupied Poland here.


The Gulag system was one of the most ominous parts of life in Stalin's Soviet Union, and a central aspect of the regime of terror that reached its height in the interwar years. The term Gulag is an acronym for the administrative body that operated the forced labour camps: Glavnoe Upravlenie ispravitel'no-trudovykh LAGerei (in English, Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps).


After her release from the Gulag, Haya-Lea spent the rest of her life in the Soviet Union. From 1961 onwards she and Shaya lived in Leningrad. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the city's historical name "Saint Petersburg" was restored.

Lesson plans for this film

12 results
For grades Documents

Using the Detinko film with Amos Oz


This lesson plan describes how an Israeli school used Centropa´s Detinko film with Amos Oz's book "A tale of love and darkness". Both depict Jewish pre-war life in Rovno.

Haya-Lea Detinko: Lesson plan for ESL teachers


Haya-Lea Detinko: Centropa, Russia and Zionism


This lesson plan uses resources from the Centropa website including some of Ursula Reinhart-Döring’s lesson plan from the teachers’ section. Because her lesson was designed for ESL kids, Margaret Chasan...

Surviving Stalin's Gulag - Interactive Film Script


The interactive film scripts combine the scripts of the Centropa Films with the links metioned in the Study Guides, thus marking various historical, cultural and geographical references.

You can use...

Túléltem a Gulágot - Haya-Leo Detinko története


Az óraterv a sztálini Szovjetunió és a Gulág világába kalauzol el bennünket. A világtörténelem fontos eseményein keresztül nyerhetünk bepillantást egy hagyományos, a tradíciókat tisztelő és követő zsidó család életébe, sorsába...

11, 12

רובנו - ציר זמן.doc


Regardless of Destiny. A Human in the Midst of Totalitarianism (based on film and interview of Centropa with «Haya Leia Detinko»)


This lesson plan was devised to introduce the life of Haya Leia to pupils and to help them analyze the difficult situation she faced in the midst of totalitarian state...

10, 11

Centropa Biography Film/Stolpersteine Assignment

History, other projects
In this project, students work in pairs to read Centropa biographies, create a 5 minute video about the interviewee, and design a Stolpersteine (commemorative stone) for them.
6, 7, 8, 9

The Jewish Life in Poland in the 20th Century

English Project

Submitted by Eden Degerzi and Yuval Ravid-Tal (11th Grade)

English Teacher and Project Designer: Sylvia Asher

Ironi "Tet" High- School, Tel-Aviv

The  Jewish Life in  Poland...

We Remember


Students make a 3-5 minute film that tells the story of a family member.  We start the project by showing Centropa films as models for short films that tell a...


Storytelling and Filmmaking to Remember Holocaust Survivors


In this project Jewish middle/high school students explore Jewish life in Europe, the Holocaust, and post-war immigrant life in America through the experiences of local Holocaust survivors from Central or...


Using Amos Oz with the Detinko film


An Introduction to Centropa’s film about Haya-Lea Detinko. This lesson uses excerpts from A Tale and Love and Darkness by the great Israeli novelist, and the film about Haya-Lea Dinko...