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Zinaida Tarasevich was born in 1937 to a deportee family in Okhtoma, Arkhangelsk oblast. Her mother had been deported with her family in 1930, before she was even 20, because they were seen as “kulaks”. After spending one night in prison in Volgograd and a long and tiring journey by train and boat, they were placed on the Okhtoma forestry plantation. Zinaida’s mother tried unsuccessfully to escape twice. Then she met Zinaida’s father, Anton Tarasevich, who had also been deported from Belarus in 1930. Of life in a deportee settlement, Zinaida remembers mainly the hunger, cold and hard living conditions.
In 1942, her father was sent to the front in Leningrad. Wounded several times, he managed in 1944 to be repatriated to Belarus and applied for his wife and daughter to be allowed to join him. Zinaida’s mother obtained a travel permit and after a long journey they arrived in Minsk in 1945.
There Zinaida went to school and worked hard. She became a youth pioneer, then a komsomol and was accepted at a mathematics institute. After working as a teacher she became a programmer.
Zinaida and her mother often talked about their experience in the deportee settlement. Her mother, deeply marked by her sixteen and a half years there, told her in detail about the family’s story. But the story had to stay secret: Zinaida’s mother was so frightened of being deported again that she told Zinaida not to talk about it to anyone. So for many years, she did not tell anyone why she was born in Okhtoma, not even her husband. Only later would her children and then her grandchildren hear the family’s story.
At the time of the interview; Zinaida Tirasevich was still living in Minsk. She belonged to the Belarusian association of victims of political repression.
Zinaida Tirasevich was interviewed in 2009 by Alain Blum.

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Her mother’s deportation

Zinaida Tarasevich describes how her mother’s family were sent from the Minsk region to forced residence in Arkhangelsk oblast.


Arriving in Okhtoma


Zinaida Tarasevich describes how her mother’s family arrived in Okhtoma: the cold, hunger and hard living conditions.


Zinaida’s birth

Zinaida’s mother twice tried to escape from Okhtoma but failed. After the second attempt, she decided to try and have a child. Zinaida explains that when she was born in 1937, not many thought she would survive the harsh conditions.


Her mother’s persistent fears after release

Zinaida describes how, when they returned to Belarus, her father refused to change Zinaida’s place of birth on their new passports. Her mother wanted to change it so that Zinaida would not be stigmatised by their deportee past. All her life, Zinaida’s mother was afraid that she and her daughter would be deported again.




Fear of discovery

Zinaida Tirasevich describes an episode from her youth. During the admission ceremony for the komsomols, she was so afraid they would ask for her place of birth, that when they asked “In what year were you born?”, she answered, “In the Archangelsk region”. But there were no consequences and Zinaida joined the komsomols as planned.


Reasons for deportation

Zinaida describes how her mother learnt long after the event why her family had been deported for being “kulaks”. She explains that neither she nor her mother knew what “kulak” meant, and so they could not understand what they were accused of.


Living with the secret

Zinaida Tirasevich describes how she never told her husband why she was born in Arkhangelsk. During their entire married life, he knew nothing of Zinaida’s past in a deportee settlement. Only later, when her children had grown up, did she talk to them about this part of her life.


Material souvenirs of the deportee settlement

Zinaida Tarasevich describes a mug they made in the settlement, which she kept at her mother’s request, and a photo taken in Okhtoma when she was still a baby.