Stalin Exiled These Two Sisters To Kazakhstan. A Lifetime Later, They’re Finally Breaking Their Silence.
After the Soviet ruler banished thousands of “enemies of the state” to the empire’s furthest reaches, the shame and stigma kept most quiet for decades.
Photos by Clary Estes
The first wave of deportations began in 1941.
Josef Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, ordered his forces to deport tens of thousands of Moldovans from their homes. Moldova, a small (now independent) country in between the Ukraine and Romania, became a Soviet Socialist Republic in 1940. Stalin deported legions of people deemed “anti-Soviet,” seeking to fend off trouble and unrest in his ever-expanding Soviet Union. Another wave of deportations in 1949 and lasted until the early 1950s.
They were sent to Kazakhstan and Siberia, far away from home, split from their families. Among them were the women of the Graur family, who were deported to Kazakhstan in 1951. Their father was an “enemy of the state” who fled to escape Stalin’s forces in the middle of the night; their brother joined the Soviet Army, the same military that was oppressing his family. In Kazakhstan, the Graur women, Ana, Pasha, Maria and their mother, Marusca, had to fend for themselves while hearing of…