Pasha, an elderly woman living in rural Moldova, sits in the warm evening sunlight, as we talk about her life in the single, small room she inhabits everyday. She is frequently moved to tears as we discuss her exile to Kazahkstan, “[The night we were deported] …they took us to the police station in Floresti (a nearby town to Vadeni, Pasha’s home village, in the Northern region of Moldova). From there, they put us in a cattle car on a train. There was nothing inside. No toilet, no food, nothing, and thus we travelled for 2 months … some people died [during the journey], inside the train cars.” – Pasha Graur
Across the former Soviet Union, millions of people were forcibly deported over the course of decades to the Eastern Soviet States of Kazakhstan and Siberia. This event is one of the longest and deadliest government campaigns in history. In Moldova, hundreds of thousands of people were deported over the course of two decades, from 1939 to the early 1950’s. The wave of deportations targeted intellectuals, large landowners, dissidents and, at times, regular people who had done nothing to promote attack. Those who were deported had their land and homes taken from them and redistributed to the Soviet state and were deemed “Enemies of the People” and were systematically shamed and silenced over the course of decades. Only recently has Moldova been willing to listen to the stories of deportees and try to understand the dark history of their country.
Pasha’s memories, like many memories from deportees, regularly jump from the distant to the more recent as she tells me of the day that she requested her sister Ana Graur-Munteanu, along with her family, to take her in and let her be part of their family due to the lack of care she found with her in-laws in her old age, “My daughter-in-law… Better not talk about her. Not even once did she take care for me and she never will. She once went to a neighbor to tell her that if I wasn’t going to leave, she would pack my bags and kick me out… And so I… wrote a letter to Alex (Ana Graur’s son) and Ludmilla Munteanu (Ana Graur’s daughter-in-law, with whom Ana lives), to their children, to the relatives from Italy and to my sister and I wrote them, ‘Please accept me into your family, please come and take me as soon as you can, for I have had enough, I can’t take it any more! Other people have food to eat, but although I have money, I starve, for I can’t go and buy what I need.” Pasha can no longer walk due to extreme leg pain and is confined to her one room in the small separate house she and Ana share. Pasha often thinks about her death saying, “I keep telling them to bury me next to our mother, for all my life I’ve been among strangers.”