The Memories of Hilda Zemzare

Zemzare, Hilda; the daughter of Andrejs; born in 1909; lived on the “Strubenči” farmstead in Jēkabpils district, Sēlpils parish; deported on June 14, 1941, to Krasnoyarsk Territory, Nazarovo district; in the Norilsk (Krasnoyarsk Territory) labour camp from July 13, 1946, to August 30, 1952; after that in a special settlement; released on February 27, 1957. Archive File Nr. 16928.

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

Transcription symbols:

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

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

Hilda Zemzare: That was in 1942. After that, in August, they came to get us – we were being taken to go fishing. Vera’s little Jānītis was ill, he had diphtheria. Minna Rubens was there, Nīče… We were taken to Nosoboyev [Vai tas nav tas pats kā “Nosovoye” četrus teikumus tālāk??]. We hadn’t gone far, when someone came running after us, shouting that Vera’s Jānītis had died. He was already choking for air. Vera stayed there. There, in Nosovoye we lived in tents.

Inta Kraskēviča: How many of you were there?

Hilda Zemzare: Many. There were about 200 of us people. We were there about a week. Then we were taken to Agapitovo. There was a fishing village there. There were Volga Germans there. That was October of 1942. They set up tents there, and put a barrel in the middle, for warmth. We were given flour to eat. Then we mixed it with water and fried it on the barrel like flatbread. There was a doctor there named Aleksandrovna, and Mrs. Korns, a dentist. Somehow Aleksandrovna became fond of Elga. She was pretty. She had a pretty little coat and scarf and hat. And so she prescribed 200 grams of bread per day for her, or… And then we were sleeping there, and everything froze to ice, even though we stoked the fire all night long. We had to go work. Rafts were frozen in the Yenisei, and we had to chop them out and pull large logs ashore. Our brigade leader was someone named Leonīds from Latgale. He had two brothers and a mother who was quite tall. They were Latgalians. Mrs. Radziņš from Gulbene was also there, Mrs. Natārs and her daughter Maija, too. The girl was a weak little thing. And then we broke those logs out of the water and pulled them ashore, stacked them in piles, and one fine day one of those logs escaped and pressed up against my leg. Good thing that the women caught that log. And then that leg of mine started to grow. There were also big strings there. We chopped and stole them, then dried them, and then wove braids out of them and sewed something like slippers to wear on our feet. We didn’t have anything, of course, only little shoes. Then we were warm. That’s the way it was.

Inta Kraskēviča: How many of you were there in the tent?

Hilda Zemzare: About fifty, I don’t really know – it was long, the tent. We were at the edge, my mother slept on the right-hand side. I warmed a brick and placed it by her feet – her feet were always very cold. And then one evening – it was already late – I was warming the brick and putting it by those feet of hers, and all of a sudden I felt that she wasn’t moving... And she had died… And then I ran over to Mrs. Nīče, to my neighbour, for some help. There was a certain tent, a special tent there, where all of the dead were placed. Many people had already died… Dogs had chewed the heads of those they had not managed to bury yet… of the dead people… those fishermen’s dogs. And so Mrs. Nīče helped me. Then I went to the fishermen, arranged for some boards, made a little coffin. Not just out of boards, though, we put sawdust in there and whatnot… The ground was awfully frozen. And then Mrs. Kom [Vai tā varētu būt drukas kļūda? Vēlāk viņa stāsta par “Korn kundzi”, ar kuru viņa gāja zvejot?] and Maija Lazdiņa and Ksenija Fleiberga … we all went to chop out the grave. We were shown where the graves were. But of course we couldn’t chop very deeply, we made it shallow, shallow, all of the ground was completely frozen. And then it was early evening when we put her on a sled; it was snowing. And then we buried her there. She was close to 80. And then another Jewish man had frozen – there by the Yenisei, he had gone to trade things at the other kolkhoz. [..] When Mrs. Lazdiņš died, I don’t know how she was buried… I was very ill when she was buried. But in general, who died later – whole families died off there. Whole families died out. There was a family named Ragailis, there were five of them, and probably all of them died. The Ragailis family. The Voicītis family… almost all of them died, they put the mother and the little boy Andrītis together in one coffin. Valentīna… no, Paulīne froze on the river. Mrs. Lazdiņš was from Daugavpils, her son Konrāds died. The Nīče’s son Arnolds died. About half of the people died by spring. We were on sort of a shore, and then there was a valley and then another sort of hill. On that hill was a big, big hole, and they took everyone up there and threw them all in that hole – you couldn’t dig anything in the winter – that was considered the North, Agapitovo, that counted as the North. They dragged everybody up there and threw them in that hole – without coffins, without anything, just threw them in there naked. I still see it all right in front of me. Then in the spring they covered the hole.

Inta Kraskēviča: How long were you there?

Hilda Zemzare: Our brigade leader was a German…When I was sick with my leg, I was put in the hospital. There was… I was there together with my daughter until 1944. Since I was considered among the good workers, I was given the same amount of bread as the workers were given. Then we went to live in dugout buildings. There was a ditch down the middle, water poured in.

Inta Kraskēviča: There were no men there?

Hilda Zemzare: No, only boys and some old men, those who were still alive. When I was no longer able to carry Elga to the bathhouse, then I asked a boy named Paulītis to carry her to the bathhouse. Sleeping in the dugout buildings took place in two levels. At first I was on the bottom, and then I was moved to the top. One old lady did not go to work, but stoked the fire. Then we were given some kind of help from America – egg powder, cream of wheat, some flour. That was 1943 already. [..] There were bedbugs there – what a nightmare. [..] We boiled mushrooms, we had salt. We stole the salt and then boiled them. Oh, the mushrooms – it’s unbelievable how many. And then we picked black currants, very, very big… Even though it was without sugar, we had jam, and we ate it, but we had to watch out for wolves. In the summertime it was fine, there were onions, wild onions. Then in 1943 we were sent fishing on the Yenisei. If there were no fish, we didn’t get any food. Mrs. Korn and I were sent across the river to fish. There were little fishing huts there. We left the children in the huts and went fishing during the night to the lakes that were further off, so that there would be food to eat. I row the boat; Mrs. Korn throws the net into the river. Then one time we have to go back to our real camp to get bread. Mrs. Korn goes off to get the bread; I stay there all alone with the girls. Mrs. Korn says that she’ll be back tomorrow, but a storm comes up, and, you understand. And she cannot get back, an awful storm, awful waves… One night I leave the girls alone and go fishing. I stand there all night and catch only one little fish. I come back home, boil the one fish, cut it in half for the girls, nothing left for me. Another time it went like this – we go off to catch some fish, a storm comes up and we’re thrown out onto the shore, the storm subsides. We go back home, and the girls are soaking wet, rain is falling on them, the roof has a hole. [Her voice breaks.]

End of interview excerpt.

NMV 87: HILDA ZEMZARE, born 1909.
Interviewed in Jelgava, Latvia, in 1994.
Interviewed by Inta Kraskēviča.
Transcribed by Ilona Grūbe.