Andrej Ozerovskij: exiled to the mines of Kazakhstan
Andrej Ozerovskij was born in 1914 in Volhynia, Lutsk, in what was formerly eastern Poland (modern-day Ukraine). He was arrested in 1944 and deported to Briansk, Belarus, then to the Karlag camp in Kazakhstan. He was interviewed in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, in August 2009 by Isabelle Ohayon.
I'm very grateful to the Karlag. If it hadn’t been for the Karaganda farm camp, I’d have left this world a long time ago. It was nothing like the prison camp in Briansk.
In the course of his lifetime, Andrej Ozerovskij has travelled the Eurasian continent. Today, he is living out the final years of his life in the town of Karaganda in Kazakhstan.
Andrej is a teacher by profession. During the war he sympathised with Polish and Ukrainian resistance movements that opposed both the Nazi German occupiers and the Soviet Red Army. In 1944, he was arrested on the grounds of "anti-Soviet activities" and sent to the Briansk penal colony in Belarus, where he survived despite extremely tough conditions. When he was deported to Kazakhstan in 1947 to work on the Karlag, a vast agricultural camp in Karaganda, all of Andrej’s ties with his homeland were severed for good.
A few months after his arrival at the Karlag he was sent to the Steplag camp, on the arid steppe of Kazakhstan. He and his fellow inmates were made to extract copper from local mineral deposits.
Andrej was freed in 1954. Afterwards he returned to Karaganda, where he soon resumed his previous job in the mines – work that fascinated and fulfilled him. He quickly fitted in with Soviet society in Karaganda, where the population was made up of displaced people of all kinds: people banned from Stalinist society, alongside workers resettled there in the 1930s.
Andrej has since made frequent trips to the region where he was born – which devolved to Ukraine in 1939 – but says that, for him, it is not home.