Other life stories
Autobiographies, biographies, romans
Bibliography, compiled by Antonio Ferrara, of books published in English, French and Italian
Kostancija Bražėnienė, Just One Moment More… The story of one woman’s return from Siberian exile. The letters of Kostancija Bražėnienė written from Lithuania, East Germany and Siberia, 1944-1966, Boulder (CO) 2007
This book is made of letters written by the authoress and her son between 1944 and 1966. Authoress was deported to Siberia in March 1949 and released in 1956. Letters cover mainly the period after the release, offering useful insights in the life of former convicts. There is less about the life in deportation since the authoress was not allowed (until 1953) to write letters. NB authoress’ daughter married (without her mother’s knowledge) Lithuanian partisan leader Juozas Lukša, and that made much more difficult the authoress’ emigration.
Wojciech Jaruzelski, Les chaînes et le refuge: mémoires, Paris 1992
Author (b. 1923) was exiled to the Altaj region in 1941; in 1943 joined General Berling’s Polish Army; his mother and sister came back to Poland in 1946.
Daniel Libeskind-Sarah Crichton, Construire le futur: d'une enfance polonaise à la Freedom Tower. Paris: Albin Michel, 2005
Author’s parents Nachman (1909-2001) and Dora (d. 1981) were both imprisoned in the Gulag in 1940-1941, and met each other in Soviet Central Asia where author’s sister was born in 1943. Libeskind relates at some length about their experiences.
Moshe Prywes–Haim Chertok, Prisoner of Hope. The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry series, 22. [Waltham, Mass.]: Brandeis University Press, 1996
Autobiography of a prominent Israeli physician, whose family inspired I. Singer’s novel The family Moskat. In April 1940 he was deported from Bialystok to the Vierchni-Tchov ITK in the Komi Republic. In 1944 he is released and moves to Kherson, in Ukraine, which he leaves in 1946 for Warsaw, then Gdansk. He then emigrates via Sweden to Paris, where he works for the JDC, and in 1951 leaves for Israel (where he helps establish medical schools at the Hebrew University and then in Beersheva).
Klemens Rudnicki, The Last of the War Horses. London: Bachman & Turner, 1974
Memoirs of a Polish general who was imprisoned in Dnipropetrovsk prison and then sent as a “free deportee” to Kirov in 1940-41, then freed under the Sikorski amnesty.
Kārlis Skalders, Under the Sign of the Times: The Story of a Latvian. Rīga: Jumava, 2000
Author was deported to the region of Krasnojarsk from 1941 to 1956.
Juozas Urbšys, La terra strappata: Lithuania 1939-1940, gli anni fatali. Baltica. Viareggio: M. Baroni, 1990
Memoirs of the last minister of Foreign Affairs of independent Lithuania (1896-1991), who in 1940 was arrested by the Soviets and released only in 1954.
Aleksander Wat-Czesław Miłosz. Mon siècle: entretiens avec Czeslaw Milosz. [France]: Editions de Fallois/L'Age d'homme, 1989
Author A. Wat was imprisoned in the Soviet Union in 1940 and then rejoined his wife in exile in Central Asia.
Doris Bader Whiteman, Escape Via Siberia: A Jewish Child's Odyssey of Survival. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1999
Life story of “Lonek” Jaroslawicz (1929-1995). His family fled Jaroslaw in 1939 and was deported to Russia, then freed under the Sikorski amnesty. They then moved to Tashkent and is mother had to put “Lonek” in an orphanage which was evacuated with the Anders Army (while the rest of the family stayed in Central Asia returning to Poland only after the war ended). Together with almost one-thousand Jewish boys (the so-called “Teheran children”) he stayed in refugee camps in Teheran and Karachi, sailing finally to Palestine in 1943. He stayed there (participating to the first Arab-Israeli War as a member of the Haganah) until 1963, when he emigrated to the United States; his parents joined him in Israel in 1949, after clandestinely emigrating from Poland and living for a while in a displaced person camp in Germany.
Ivan Choma, Josyf Slipyj. Milano: Casa di Matriona, 2001
Cardinal Josef Slipyj (1892-1984), successor of Metropolitan Andrej Sheptysky, was arrested on April 11, 1945 and served 18 years in various prisons and labour camps of the Soviet Union. A chapter of this biography (written by his secretary) is dedicated to Slipyj’s long imprisonment in the Gulag.
Alick Dowling, Janek, a story of survival, Letchworth, Ringpress, 1989
This book is in fact a biography of author’s brother-in-law, Janek Leja (b. 1918). Janek Leja is arrested in January 1940 while trying to cross the border, imprisoned in Przemyśl and then Nikolaev, and sentenced to twenty-five years of hard labor (katorga) in August 1940. He is sent to work to the construction of the Vorkuta-Kotlas railway line in November 1940 and freed under the Polish amnesty in September 1941. He then ends up in Central Asia where we works picking cotton in a collective farm near Nukus, in Karakalpakstan (Uzbek SSR). On March 1942 his group leaves for Kermine; they rejoin the Anders Army and leave Russia on April 1942. He is stationed in Middle East with the Polish Army, then educates himself in wartime London and in postwar years work in South Africa, England and finally Canada until his retirement in 1983.
Alfonsas Eidintas, President of Lithuania: prisoner of the Gulag: a biography of Aleksandras Stulginskis. Vilnius: Genocide and Resistence Research Center of Lithuania, 2001
Aleksandras Stulginskis (1885-1969), speaker of the Lithuanian Costituent Assembly and then president between 1922 and 1926, was deported to Kansk, near Krasnojarsk, in 1941. Only in 1952 he was sentenced to 25 years, but was released in 1954 and returned to Lithuania in 1956 (see chaps. I, XI-XIII).
Masha Gessen, Ester and Ruzya: How My Grandmothers Survived Hitler's War and Stalin's Peace. New York, N.Y.: Dial Press, 2004
This is the story of authoress’ grandmothers, one of which was deported from Bialystok to Bijsk, in Siberia, in June 1941. Freed five months later, she moved to Moscow in 194?
Klaus Hergt, Exiled to Siberia: a Polish child’s WWII journey, Cheboygan (MI), Crescent Lake Pub. 2000
Author tells the story of Henryk “Hank” Birecki, son a Polish gendarme, deported to Siberia in February 1940.
Darcy O'Brien, Dans le secret du Vatican: le récit inédit d'une amitié qui a radicalement changé les relations entre catholiques et juifs. [Saint-Laurent, Québec]: Fides, 1999.
This book is dedicated to the friendship between Jerzy Kluger (b. 1921) and Karol Wojtyla. Kluger’s father (Wilhelm) was a lawyer and a Polish reserve officer; together with his son he escaped to Western Ukraine in 1939 and was deported to the Mari republic in May (?) 1940 (presumably as a bežents). Father and son were amnestied in August 1941 and then joined Anders Army. The son fought at El Alamein and Monte Cassino and married an Irish woman, and after father’s death in London settled in Rome.
Sandra Oancia, Remember: Helen's Story. Calgary: Detselig Enterprises, 1997.
This book is the biography of Helen Najborowski (née Kordas in 1924), who was arrested in Kremenetz on February 10, 1940 and deported to a “labor camp” (more likely a “special settlement”) called Nikolynskya Baza, in Siberia (actually in the region of Sverdlovsk). She was freed under the Polish amnesty and joined a Polish orphanage which was later evacuated to Iran and then India. In 1947 she left India for Britain; there she married in July 1948 and then left for Canada, where she lived in Saskatchewan.
Jaroslav Pelikan, Confessor between East and West: A Portrait of Ukrainian Cardinal Josyf Slipyj. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub, 1989
Cardinal Josef Slipyj (1892-1984), successor of Metropolitan Andrej Sheptysky, was arrested on April 11, 1945 and served 18 years in various prisons and labour camps of the Soviet Union. One (however unsatisfying) chapter of this book is dedicated to Slipyj’s imprisonment in the Gulag.
Natalia Sazonova, Red jazz, ou, La vie extraordinaire du camarade Rosner. Paris: Parangon/L'Aventurine, 2004.
Eddie Rosner (1910-1976), a prominent Jewish jazzman, left Berlin for Poland and then escaped to Soviet Belarus in 1939. Arrested in Lviv in November 1946, he was deported in December 1947 to Chabarovsk; in 1950 obtained to be transferred to the Kolyma. He was freed in the summer of 1954 and stayed in the USSR; he then emigrated in 1972. In 2006 a documentary on Rosner (Le jazzman du Goulag, directed by P.-H. Salfati) has also been realised.
Rouza Berler, Avec elles au-de là de l’Oural, La Table Ronde, Paris 1967
Novel whose main character, a Polish woman doctor, is arrested on April 13, 1940 and sent to the Northern Kazakhstan, in the district of Koustanaï. The story is likely fictional, but with an autobiographic background.
Andrzej Corvin Románski, Prisoners of the night, The Bobbs-Merrill Company publishers, Indianapolis-New York 1948.
Novel whose main character is a Polish doctor from Warsaw deported to Camp no. 90 in the valley of the River Senya, near the Pechora river, whose prisoners work cutting wood in the Arctic forest. It is fictional but likely based on real characters. It has had also a Spanish translation (Prisoneros de la noche, Caralt 1950). Translated from Polish (by Walter M. Besterman and Blair Taylor) but the Polish edition was published only later (Więźniowie nocy. Londyn: Orbis, 1956).
Zbigniew Domino, Sibériade polonaise. Lausanne: Noir sur blanc, 2005.
Novel on the deportation of Polish military colonists in February 1940. The author, himself a deportee, has been active in the societies of former deportees to Siberia.
Heino Kiik, Marie en Sibérie: roman. [Paris]: Temps actuels, 1992.
Novel on the Estonian peasants from the Avinurme region deported in the southern Siberian region of Zdvinsk (in the Novosibirsk oblast) between 1949 and 1957, based on the experiences of the mother of the author (b. 1927).
William B. Makowski, The Uprooted. Mississauga, Ont: Smart Design, 2002.
Novel (partly autobiographic) whose main character, Janek Tabor, is deported on February 9, 1940 from the village of Zamosze. With his family he is sent to the special settlement Nukhto-Ozyero, in Russia; here he is arrested and further deported to a place near the Afghan border to build a railway. He then escapes, reaching Bukhara – while his family, freed under the Polish amnesty, reaches a collective farm in Uzbekistan. They are later evacuated to Iran separately; he joins the Polish II Corps, one sister ends up in Santa Rosa, Mexico, the other to Nairobi and then joins the Women’s Auxiliary Forces. He finally emigrates to Canada with his girlfriend, another former deportee.
Joseph Stanley Wnukowski, Sun without warmth, London 1966.
Story of a Polish family deported, first to Siberia, then to the North of Archangelsk, then to the goldmines of Gramatuza and the coal mines of Černogorsk.