Meri Tchanukvadze, 83 years old, Village Tsitelmta, the municipality of Ozurgeti

‘’My father was arrested on August 8th in 1937, a few days earlier before I was born. He was a Social Democrat and had already been arrested once in 1926, spending 6 years in Tashkent prison. In 1937, he was arrested again as a former prisoner and they deported him to Komi ASSR.

Our mother, who was a very good, hardworking woman, raised us and she was a father for us as well. There were two of us – me and my older brother – they couldn’t have more children. My mother tried her best to ensure that we had everything we needed. But it was a very difficult time for us. If someone was in the war, his family received help; but no one would help the family of the repressed. My mother’s family helped us and that’s why we weren’t left hungry. People didn’t have a bad attitude towards us, both my mother and father had a very good reputation in the neighborhood and nobody harassed us, in the opposite – they supported us. Obviously, they couldn’t do anything for us, but, for example, the village chairman was always trying to help our family and tried to stand by our side.

That’s how I grew up. I was a very good student at school with good notes. I used to come out with reports, with different things… I wrote a report and the director of the school read it in front of the teachers. There was one woman and she asked the director – when she’ll read that report and people ask whose child’s report it is, what would he say? That she is the daughter of a traitor?! The director told me, with great reverence, that I wouldn’t be able to read it and gave the spotlight to some of my friends. I was offended, of course, but what could I do…

When I became 10, I took a picture and sent it to my father, who was also in the 10th year of his exile. During this time, many of the exiled prisoners died there, they were unable to withstand the conditions. My father told me later, that once they were punished to eat only 200 grams of bread a day and many of them died thinking about it –before, they were used to eating a whole bread in one meal. He was an economist and he was a very moderate person in everything, in life, in food… When I sent him letters, he would check it for mistakes and reply: here, you have to use a comma. He raised me from there.

In 1947, my father came back. A sanatorium was being built in Kobuleti then and started working there. In 1949, arrests started again for those who had been in prison in 1937 and also for those who had been prisoners of war and came back alive. They took all of them and arrested them. My father was also arrested and this time exiled to the Krasnoyarsk. Stalin died in 1953, was rehabilitated in 1955 and they told my father: ‘’you were right, we didn’t have to arrest you’’ and he was released. He spent 26 years in prison, in total.

He came back and then worked in Ozurgeti, in state-owned trading, for a long time. He died at 82. He endured so much torture but still lived until 82. Despite everything, he wouldn’t say bad things, in general, if he said something. Maybe he was so intimidated that he had to keep his mouth shut. He was not afraid because of himself, but more because of us – that nobody would hurt us.

A small part of his diaries remain. You can’t imagine what nightmares are described there. How they spent 11 days in hunger – only people from this district; only Georgians. In 1937 there were “troika” trials – they would choose who to arrest, without any reason. They arrested my father in the same way. One from this triad worked as a postman and he used to visit us. My father knew who he was – he would offer him to eat with us and drink wine. Of course, he would never say anything to him.

When ‘’Repentance’’ was filmed, my father had a cerebral leak and was lying in bed. My daughter was a student, she came to him and told him about that movie. He listened to her and said that it was too early to make such a movie – the persons portrayed and their descendants were still alive.’’ – Such a great fear was still prevalent in them…’’

Author: Nino Gamisonia
Photo: Nino Baidauri
Translation: Mariam Kajrishvili