The Children of Siberian Labor Camps
My Family, 60 Years After GULAG
A photographic contemplation on the history and lives of a generation of my family members who were, more than 60 years ago, sent to and survived, as children, years of exile in the Siberian labor camps.
More than 50 years have passed since the last surviving members of my family returned to their native Latvia from their imprisonment in the Siberian labor camps. They had all been sent to Siberia without a crime to report, without a trial, and without a return date. During their years in Siberia they had all been made to starve, to work long, excruciating hours in unimaginable circumstances, and to watch many of their friends and family members perish. They were all children.
Not until recently did I become aware of the fate that had befallen many of the older relatives I knew so well as a child growing up in Soviet Latvia. The events of that shocking past never made it to our history books, and were forever banned from all conversations in our homes. The cost of discussing anything related to the issues of Stalinism during the Soviet times was too high, carrying for those returned from the labor camps the risk of losing their recovered lives.
So, for the first time in many years, and after learning of what had happened to my aunts and uncles in their childhood, I went to visit them, their faces so familiar and dear to me. I wanted to know how their lives had been, how they were faring these deep austerity times that recent recession had brought to now independent Latvia, and to hear the stories about their lives during and after Siberia.
These photographs are the result of those conversations.