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The Memories of Valçrija Sieceniece

Sieceniece, Valçrija; the daughter of Pçteris; born in 1905; lived in Riga, Margrietas iela 16-3; deported on June 14, 1941, to Novosibirsk province, Parabel region; released on May 29, 1956. Archive File Nr. 17775.

From: Aizvestie. 1941. gada 14. jûnijs. (The Deported. June 14, 1941)

Transcription symbols:

.. – sentence broken off
… – pause in which the number of periods corresponds to the length of the pause
[ ] – comments in square brackets and italics provide information about the progress of the interview or the interviewee’s intonation
[ ] – comments in square brackets represent omitted words that are necessary to understand the text
[..] – omissions in text

All life story excerpts are written so as to correspond to the interviewee’s manner of speech.


***


Well, and as would be expected, there came a knock on the door during the night on June 13-14. And in came Treijs, who was in charge of this whole thing, and someone who had just been released from prison, most likely some political prisoner, and some other people. And they read a memorandum to us, that we have to now leave Latvian territory, depart. They comforted us, saying, “You’ll all be able to work in your speciality there.”

Well, I was very worried, and I wondered how my mother would handle it. And so I placed a call to “Âvas” – that’s what the farm was called – but the phone didn’t work. Then my husband asked for permission to call his mother. I guess that made Treijs feel uncomfortable, and he allowed the call. Mrs. Siecenieks came over; she came over with her grandson Marìers. And we started packing, and you know, I was confused, especially when they said that it’ll be like this or that, that we’ll work in our specialties. And instinctively I packed as I usually packed when getting ready for a trip abroad. So you can imagine what was in the suitcases, right?

Mâra Zirnîte: Well, what was in them?

Valçrija Sieceniece: Well, there were elegant dresses, elegant shoes, everything corresponding to what I was like then … But then Treijs took pity on us and told us, and then I more or less understood everything.

“Well, that won’t do it. You need to take along bedding, winter clothing, warm clothing, and so on.” And then I took one large bed sheet and began to throw everything into it – even ski boots, ski jackets and warm underwear and blankets and, well, everything. And I tied it all up. There must have been two large bundles. Well, and then they… Well, Mrs. Siecenieks, of course, was crying… They called out a truck, a big truck, because all of that would not fit into a regular car. And I remember that my mother-in-law was holding out her hands and calling, “Sasha! Sasha!” She never saw him again.

We went down the stairs, and I saw – when we had gotten down to the street – that both Professor Gartjç [Vai viòð bija latvietis vai sveðtautietis? Ja sveðtautietis, tad angïu tekstâ vajadzçtu viòa uzvârdu rakstît oriìinâlvalodâ, piemçram, Gartier, ja viòð bija francûzis.] and his wife were standing – he lived in the first floor apartment – standing by the window and waving to us. We got into the truck, and all of our bundles were put in there as well. First we were taken to the Toròakalns train station, and afterwards it turned out, whether the train was there, or whether it was already full, or what. And along the way we saw many more trucks like ours.

Near the bridge across the Daugava my husband said, “Well, take a last look at Riga.”

And I said spontaneously, “No! This won’t be the last time; I will return!” I returned, but he didn’t return.

***

Our end station was in Novosibirsk. There we were all made to take our belongings and get off the train. I climbed out – as mother told me later – because I didn’t have any other kind of clothing, in an elegant suit, an elegant hat from Paris and snake-skin shoes. Well, that’s all I was able to wear, that’s all I had. And I was standing there by my things, and all of a sudden Spilva runs up to me and says, “Vallij, your mother is here!”

Well, I dropped everything and ran as fast as I could, and noticed a small, pale woman. Well, we fell into each other and hugged, and then I got this real drive and energy to live, because for a while there in the train I wasn’t even eating anymore. I wasn’t eating anything; I didn’t want to live anymore. And then there was that man from the Jewish family, who had noticed that I was not eating and began to talk with me. And he began to convince me. And that helped me. And then I began to eat again. But then came the next problem – we were each in a different train car, and they grouped us together by train cars. So… we might be separated again. Well… then I…my advantage was that I could speak Russian perfectly, because I had graduated from a Russian school, and I saw right away who was in charge there. I went up to him and said, “Look, this is the situation: I don’t want to be separated from my mother – how shall we arrange this?”

***

[..] We got off in a village called Kuchi in Parabel region. That’s where we had to get out. The locals had gathered along the river’s edge. Well, the sight was just too pathetic. They were dressed so poorly, everybody in shabby clothing. You can imagine – there were no definite, bright colours. Emaciated. Children with bare feet and bloated stomachs, with big eyes in their little heads, dressed in mother’s or father’s jacket, also came running. And everyone looked at these people with great wonder. It was planned… And you know who they were? They were people who had lived there for 15 years already, the so-called kulaks from the Altai. They were taken there and left in the taiga, and made to dig holes for dugout buildings, and to cover them with the…well, with pine branches. They had to spend the winter there, and not everyone survived. The government gave a small allowance to those who did survive, so that they could buy a cow. And, of course, they had to build their own houses. They were log houses with moss stuffed between the logs, very primitive. There were no bricks, so for a chimney they used a cast iron pot with no bottom. Well, the locals… But the locals expressed a wish to… They felt sorry for us; they saw who we were. And they thought that we would perish out there. They offered to take us in, in their houses. It could very well be that there was a certain reason that we came with suitcases and all of our belongings. They could choose. We – mother and I – were chosen by a woman with poor… Later she told us why she had chosen us, she said that it was because she had two rooms – in the first room was the big stove, and then a second room. And because she had six children of her own, she couldn’t take a family with a child, and so she chose both of us. Mrs. Raudseps and the old lady and little Maija were chosen by a local villager who also lived in a small house …

End of interview excerpt. 

NMV 75: VALÇRIJA SIECENIECE, born 1905.
Interviewed in Riga, Latvia, on June 6, 1993.
Interviewed by Mâra Zirnîte and Vilis Zirnîtis.
Transcribed by Ieva Darviòa.
Edited and prepared for publication by Mâra Zirnîte and Ieva Garda.