Elena Talanina: a stolen childhood
Elena Talanina was born on 18 October 1937 in Upyna, in the Telshiai region of Lituania.
She was deported with her mother on 24 March 1949 to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. She has lived in Bratsk since 1958, and was interviewed there on 27 August 2009 by Emilia Koustova.
We weren’t even paid! It was in the kolkhoze between 1949 and 1951. Those were very hard years and the Russian women, they were so poor... Many had lost their husbands during the war.
Elena Talanina was born the youngest daughter in a large family of wealthy farmers in Lithuania. On 24 March 1949, uniformed men came to the family house and took her and her mother away. The reason: partly because her brother had refused to come back to the local kolkhoz, or state-owned farm, and partly because of her family’s wealth.
Elena and her mother were taken to Bolchaia Murta in Krasnoyarsk region. Elena worked in the kolkhoz, taking care of both herself and her mother, who was too old to work. Elena would never go to school again and spent the rest of her childhood and adolescence working in the fields.
Despite the tough conditions, Elena describes the overall atmosphere at the kolkhoz as welcoming, even though its inhabitants were extremely poor and there was no help from neighbours or local authorities. Initially, Elena and her mother relied on aid parcels from Lithuania to survive.
She married a Russian and was soon a mother of three. It was because of her new family that she decided to stay in Russia even after she was liberated in 1956.
In 1958, Elena and her family settled in Bratsk, eastern Siberia, joining hundreds of thousands of Soviet farmers who had left the kolkhozes to try their luck in the cities. In Bratsk, a model city and showcase for the Soviet energy industry, life was hard for the newcomers.
Elena’s husband died a few years ago. Today, she doesn’t speak much about her years as a deportee. She prefers telling her grandchildren her stories of the war years and the battles between the Red Army and the Nazis that she witnessed as a child.