Doors are open on “secret files”

Everyone in my family has heard my grandmother’s brothers were arrested, beaten and released from prison for being “enemies of the state” in the 1930s.

Out of curiosity, I decided to request information from my grand uncles’ communist persecution files. I really didn’t think I would get anything because communist-era records are supposed to be closed in Russia.

Well, I sent my letter to the wrong office but that office sent my request to the correct office. The office where I sent the original request told me to be patient and I would receive information in one to two months. The files were located.

I was expecting a one- to two-paragraph letter that the information could not be released. But I got more than a full page of information. The letter with the information stated the files could not be located. Somehow the information was still available…

I got the dates of the investigation and arrests, the charges based on criminal codes and prison release dates of my grand uncles, whose addresses also were released. The office also checked for three other relatives, just in case they had problems with the authorities. Nothing was found on my other relatives.

It turned out that my five grand uncles were the only ones in my father’s family who had problems with the authorities. All of this was the result of one brother pulling out a German technical journal on a train, according to a daughter of a grand uncle.

I know of a relative from my mother’s family who had a similar problem with authorities. The family story is that her brother sent her family clothes from Berlin to her village in central Russia. The brother had a habit of hiding religious literature in his packages because he hated that religion was banned in the USSR. He wanted his sister to share his devotion to religion.

Recently, I requested her communist persecution file in another region of Russia. Luckily, I never heard of my family having problems in what is now Ukraine, which still keeps these records closed. I cannot even get my grandfather’s military POW record from Ukraine when it was the Germans who held my grandfather prisoner.

If you are interested in getting a communist persecution file from Russia, find the Прокуратура for the region where your relative lived. You can find the contact information easily. Search on Wikipedia for your relative’s home region. Wikipedia will have the region written in Russian. Copy Прокуратура and the region written in Russian into the Google search engine and a website for the right office should appear.

Some offices will have e-mail addresses. I would recommend sending a letter. If you choose to send an e-mail message, write a letter for a status update after two months if you do not receive a confirmation your message was received. My request took four months to arrive in the mail.

Make sure you provide the full name of your relative, her or his birth date, birthplace, spouse’s name and address, if possible. The more information you provide, the better chance you have in getting a positive response. Also, ask for any personal information that can help find your relative or their family. The letter or e-mail message should focus on the fact that the request is being made to find relatives, not for genealogical research. The letter naturally needs to be written in Russian. Prompt is a great free online translator.

If you have problems finding the correct Прокуратура, please e-mail me at bepa.  miller  @ mail.  ru.

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