Unsealed records unveil the bigger story behind a family’s persecution

For years, relatives have repeated the story that my grandmother’s five brothers were sent to prison during the communist era for possessing a foreign technical journal on a train.

But that is so far from the possible truth. My grandmother’s brothers were really accused of making an invention that was possibly sold to the Germans, according to files removed from an archive’s volt.

A cell companion of my oldest grand-uncle said he repeatedly heard from other prisoners that my relative said the People’s Commissar of the Navy requested him to make the invention. The signed statement of the cell companion doesn’t say who sold the invention to the Germans.

An accusation that my grand-uncle made an invention worth selling isn’t far-fetched. My researcher carefully looked at the records that were fading and crumbling. The information is a bit shocking.

My researcher found drawings and documentation of nine inventions made by my three grand-uncles. All the writing was in German. These inventions could have helped the military in wartime.

The shocking part isn’t that my grand-uncles had the knowledge and ability to make these inventions. Their father had several inventions for explosives, which were used in mining.

It is hard to understand why they chose to write everything in German. Maybe that was the order from the People’s Commissar of the Navy. I wonder if my grand-uncles even had a choice when this order came to them.

But what is the real truth?  Did their invention really get into the hands of the Germans? Their 57-year-old widowed mother wasn’t afraid to stand up for her sons to Andrei Vyshinsky, the prosecutor of the USSR.

“I beg you to treat fairly the business of my sons. Do not allow certain careerists and overcautious persons to cast a black shadow on the great and awesome name of People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs which is not needing at all those actions which are applied to my sons, the gone too far careerists and actually the Trotskyists who addressed in great People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs for data of the personal scores and for commission of the dirty Trotskyist work,” she wrote to Vyshinsky in 1938.

She was inspired to write Vyshinsky because her oldest son sneaked out a letter written on toilet paper to her. My grand-uncle hid his letter in a saucepan to tell his mother that he and his brother haven’t eaten edible food in six months, were punished by being held in a hot cell for a month and have been beaten terribly for not signing confessions.

Soon after my great-grandmother sent this letter, her other three sons were charged with unknown crimes. This only left a daughter as her only child who was not in prison. Not until my researcher dove into these records, I didn’t understand why the grand-uncles were arrested at different times.

The five brothers were thrown into a stream after being severally beaten and aging much more than the three years that were taken away from them. They saved their lives by not signing any confessions. They returned to their families and made a successful plan to escape the USSR three years later.

The details of this story ends here because the archive is hesitating to release any more records on this case. But the fight to fully tell this story will continue at the archives of a regional Federal Security Service office, where my researcher will open more files on this case.

Follow this blog to see this story continue by clicking on the top right button.

Related posts:
Determination to get one record leads to a pile of records on family mysteries
Declassified records reveal details of a family secret
Secret files help complete the life story of five brothers

5 thoughts on “Unsealed records unveil the bigger story behind a family’s persecution

  1. celiapearl

    Dear Vera

    Thank you for allowing us to accompany you on your family search adventure. It is very encouraging for us who have records in Russia and the Ukraine but are hesitant to dive in.

    When he was alive my father was in contact with relatives in the former Soviet Union. When he visited those cousins they gave him a handwritten family tree that dates to the mid 18th century. This is a start.

    My brother will be visiting in June and with his help I’m determined to begin our own quest to find records verifying or refuting the information found in the above-mentioned tree. Brother Jim has communicated with cousins on facebook but their knowledge of family history is somewhat sketchy. It now appears we will need some professional assistance. Would you kindly share the contact information of your own researcher?

    Again, your willingness to share the knowledge you have accumulated is greatly appreciated.

    Suzanne Shadko Peele

    On Sun, Apr 28, 2019 at 10:31 AM Find Lost Russian & Ukrainian Family wrote:

    > Vera Miller posted: “For years, relatives have repeated the story that my > grandmother’s five brothers were sent to prison during the communist era > for possessing a foreign technical journal on a train. But that is so far > from the possible truth. My grandmother’s brothers w” >


  2. Cindy Everetts

    Thank you again Vera for sharing your families history. I have been contemplating writing to the former NKVD in search of my great grandfather’s file. I have little information about the persecution of the Finns in the Soviet Union. This is what I know thus far: Lived. to d. (Die??) Kestenga Kestengskoo district. Arrest 24/06/38 was convicted. Special NKVD troops of the Karleian ASSR on 05/10/38, at the art. 58-10 of the Criminal Code of the RDFSR for 10 years. Rehabilitate. 04/04/99 The prosecutors office of Karelia.
    What would you recommend I do next? Do I need a researcher or just an address to send my written request to? Please advise. Thank you very much. I will await your response and am following your story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can write again to the prosecutor’s office and ask for details of his life- his full birthdate and birthplace, his address, his employment, the family members in his house, where he served his time, how much time he served, whether he was released and what caused the charges to be filed against him. That’s how I got the details on my grandmother’s brothers.


  3. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

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