Chapter 9

      Ella arrived in Minsk few days before I left Lida . She managed to register at the Medical School and to move to a dormitory. We shared a room with two girls. One was a single woman with a child. Tamara left her daughter with her brother’s family in Kiev. Tamara was not only very attractive, but she was a smart and hard working student. I paired off with her to study together. Ella studied with another girl. Our roommates became also our friends. The dormitory housed girls and boys. The rooms were on the same corridor From time to time we went to dances. We took our meals in a cafeteria. There were no cooking facilities at the dormitory. The Medical School was located within the University campus. The buildings were modern and the laboratories were well equipped. Minsk was a beautiful old city. Some of the streets were rebuilt into boulevards. Our dormitory was on a wide street named Karl Marx Street. It was a short distance from the University campus. We were in correspondence with mother in Lida and with father in Izma, Komi Republic.

Academic life in Minsk was busy. We were doing well in exams. I have letters written to the Gulag to father. He saved few.   I carried these letters as well as mothers letters to father all the way from Gulag to Tashkent, to Krakow and finally New York. These letters were written in 1940 to June 1941.

In Minsk, we found two friends from Lida.  A fellow student from Gymnasium, Calka Orzechowski, and a young woman from Wilno, Bunia. Bunia was a seamstress. Before the 1939 war begun, Bunia was our family seamstress. The seamstress, at that time, was hired for a week or longer to work in the customer’s home. Bunia’s family lived in Vilna. Her father and her brother were employed in a factory, producing the radios “ELECTRIT”. When the Soviets left Vilna, they dismantled the factory and took along all the important equipment, the material and the specialists in the field of  production. These workers were given special privileges in Minsk. They were provided with good housing and were able to shop in a special store, where only the privileged were allowed to shop. These special stores had more and better articles, and were closed to outsiders. Each large factory had this kind of store. Salaries in the Soviet Union were low and not enough to feed and to dress a family. The incentive to work in a factory was the possibility to buy food and clothing in the special stores. Years later, in Tashkent, father got a position as doctor in a factory, and it helped us tremendously. Bunia was not much older than I was.  She visited us in the dormitory and we became friends. We wrote letters to father often. It was, however, an agreement that he did not write to us, only to mother. We did not want anyone to know that Father was in a Gulag as a political prisoner. The family of a political prisoner was always in danger of persecution. Mother was right to get us out from Lida. In Minsk our life was the normal life of a student in the Soviet Union. The University was free and we were getting a small stipend. We were, also, able to have meals in the cafeteria. If one can call this a stable, normal life, it was as long as it lasted. Mother received a permit to visit father in the Gulag. It was a big accomplishment. She was supposed to be in Minsk on June 26. She never made it.

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