34 photographs, 3 maps, 1 chronology
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2018 Book Prize from the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies
2018 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature in Nonfiction from the Koffler Centre of the Arts in Toronto
When Julija Šukys was a child, her paternal grandfather, Anthony, rarely smiled, and her grandmother, Ona, spoke only in her native Lithuanian. But they still taught Šukys her family’s story: that of a proud people forced from their homeland when the soldiers came. In mid-June 1941 three Red Army soldiers arrested Ona and sent her east to Siberia, where she spent seventeen years working on a collective farm. It was all a mistake, the family maintained.
Some seventy years after these events, Šukys sat down to write about her grandparents and their survival of a twenty-five-year forced separation and subsequent reunion. Piecing the story together from letters, oral histories, audio recordings, and KGB documents, her research soon revealed a Holocaust-era secret—a family connection to the killing of seven hundred Jews in a small Lithuanian border town. According to KGB documents, the man in charge when those massacres took place was Anthony, Ona’s husband.
In Siberian Exile Šukys weaves together the two narratives: the story of Ona, noble exile and innocent victim, and that of Anthony, accused war criminal. She examines the stories that communities tell themselves and considers what happens when the stories we’ve been told all our lives suddenly and irrevocably change, and how forgiveness operates across generations and the barriers of life and death.
List of Illustrations
Part I. Anthony
Part II. Ona
Part III. Us