Solidarité Ukraine
INED Éditions. Sound Archives, European Memories of the Gulag

Travels of the Ruzgys family

In May 1948, the Ruzgyses, a Lithuanian farming family, were arrested near Šiauliai and deported. After travelling two weeks, the resettler train arrived in Buryatia in Eastern Siberia, south-east of Lake Baikal. Small groups of resettlers were put in open trucks on a narrow-gauge railway and allocated to various villages. The territory was settled by the resettlers along these railways which ran up the valleys of the Yablonovy mountains. The Ruzgys family and fifteen other families were taken to the hamlet of Khutor, which had twenty or so houses. The resettler families moved into four of them.

Before the early arrival of the Siberian winter, the resettlers quickly built a new hut village, Moigua, in the taiga, extending the narrow-gauge railway to the north-east.

The village only lasted a few years, until all the forest in the valley was felled. A new village was built in another well-wooded valley that offered several years of work. Life in this village, Khara-Kutul, populated largely by Lithuanians, was more comfortable: larger houses, basic amenities and services. Of the three villages Rimgaudas Ruzgys lived in, it is the only one that still exists. The Lithuanians moved from being itinerant settlers to residents who could at last take the place over.

Rimgaudas had a great “advantage” over the other resettlers. He was a “free man” because his parents had managed to change his date of birth to make him one year younger. But this free man’s “advantage” turned against him. Adult resettlers were not called up to the army, but Rimgaudas had to leave the village to do his military service in the Soviet Army. He was sent to Khabarovsk on the Chinese frontier. At that point his family moved to Novoilinsk village, their last destination in Siberia before they were set free and could leave, in 1956-1957.

In 1960, after three and a half years’ military service, Rimgaudas Ruzgys returned to Lithuania and settled in Vilnius. In the early 1960s, his parents, brother and sister also moved to Vilnius because they could not return to the family house, now occupied by other people.