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



Sonia  BORY

Sonia Bory was born in Wołożyn, Poland (now Valozhyn, Belarus), to a well-known Polish rabbinical family. A few months after the Red Army arrived in Wołożyn, her father, co-owner of a sawmill and a flour mill, was arrested and sent away to a camp in the Gulag. Shortly after his arrest, Sonia Bory was herself deported, along with her mother and brother, to a sovkhoz in northern Kazakhstan.
Sonia Bory, her mother and brother, lived in exile in the USSR for six years. Sonia's mother worked as a bursar in the sovkhoz dispensary. After serving in an NKVD labour column, her brother became a non-commissioned officer in the Red Army following the Sikorski-Maisky agreement between Poland and the USSR in 1941.

After being interrogated by an NKVD agent, Sonia's mother left the sovkhoz in secret for Pavlodar, in north-eastern Kazakhstan. Sonia and her mother were not sent back to Poland until 1946, to Szczecin, a German town that had become Polish. They learned of the death of relatives and family members who had remained in Poland and been exterminated during the Nazi occupation, but had no information about Sonia's father, who they thought was dead. After a few months in Szczecin, they crossed the border illegally into Germany and then obtained a visa for France to join part of their family who had survived the war. Sonia's brother deserted and fled to Germany, then to France with a Jewish Zionist organization, before settling permanently in Israel.

In Paris, Sonia Bory enrolled in higher education and then pursued a career as a chemist.

The interview with Sonia Bory was conducted in 2012 by Marta Craveri and Alain Blum.

PDF (67.85 KB) See MEDIA

Languages — a childhood speaking many

Sonia Bory remembers the many languages she spoke and learnt as a child, before deportation.


Her father’s arrest and deportation


Sonia Bory remembers how her father was arrested and deported with her mother in 1940.


Arrival in “enemy country”

Sonia Bory explains living conditions on the sovkhoz collective farm, where there were workers of various nationalities. She describes how they were forced to inform on each other.


Settlement on the sovkhoz

Sonia Bory remembers how they settled on the sovkhoz collective farm.


Not allowed a red scarf

Sonia Bory remembers an incident at school when the mistress took her red pioneer’s scarf from her, once she realised Sonia was not Russian.


Hunger and helping each other

Sonia Bory remembers the hunger during deportation.


Return home — arrival in “Poland”

Here, Sonia Bory remembers her arrival in Szczecin in 1946, the German city of Stettin that had been given to Poland.



Return home — impossible to live in Poland

Here, Sonia Bory recalls the stages in her release. First, the family was sent to Szczecin (a German city that had become Polish), where they heard that all the friends and relatives who had stayed behind had died, so they decided to head for France via Berlin. Sonia Bory hears of her father’s death.


Still attached to Russia

Here, Sonia Bory discusses her relationship with Russia, which she sees as “her country”.



Passing on the story

Sonia Bory remembers how the family’s story was passed on to later generations. Her mother did not discuss the matter much with her, or with her grandchildren. But Sonia Bory began to tell her life story to her own grandchildren.



Happy memories still

Sonia Bory evokes her happy memories of Kazakhstan, even though she never returned there after her release from deportation.


Back to where she was born

Sonia Bory describes how she travelled to Valozhyn, as her native town is now called, and met the Belarusian family living in her old house.


“They took everything from the Jews”

Sonia Bory describes her experience in the light of all the atrocities committed against Jewish communities in Europe at that time.


Whether or not to pass on languages

Sonia Bory and her daughter Annie Attia-Bory, discuss the fact that Polish and Yiddish were not passed on to later generations. Annie Attia-Bory tells of her surprise when she learnt that her grandmother spoke Polish.