A Long Hard Journey to Somewhere
Zanda Mandzhieva, 15, Elista



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Does anybody have grandparents who lived in Siberia during the Great Patriotic War? asked my history teacher.

Yes, I have, I said.

Well, Zanda, could you write an essay about it? Write about what they went through at that time.

Er I will try. I went home and found Granny was knitting socks. She is 73 years old. In 1943 when she was eight, she was exiled with her parents to Siberia. I asked her to tell me something about it.

Oh, dear. That was a long time ago. I wonder what I can tell you.

She thought a while and then she started the story. "It was 64 years ago, a cold winter. We were sitting at home, but suddenly soldiers with weapons came into our home. They ordered us to take only necessary things and follow them. Then soldiers packed us in freight trains, in freezing train cars. And so began a long hard journey to somewhere, we didn't know where. Everybody was starving. Many people died. Soldiers just threw them out on the tracks. Then somebody told us that we were being exiled to Siberia, said Granny.

She continued, We arrived in Siberia. It was so cold and snowing too! We were tired and almost dead from starvation. We had nowhere to go, no houses, no food, no heavy clothes for this cold. We were sent to some families. We approached the houses, and knocked on the doors, but the doors and windows were closed to us. At first, nobody wanted to open their doors to us.

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Finally we were sheltered by a kind Siberian woman. Thanks to her, we survived. She said, Before your arrival, somebody said that you were cannibals! When my Granny remembered this, her face became sad and her eyes filled with tears.

In 1956, my Granny and her family were allowed to return to Kalmykia. She still remembers that wonderfully kind Siberian woman who did not see us as different.


I. Understanding the Story
Discuss this storys main idea with a partner.

II. Vocabulary
Explore and explain the words in bold.
1. What does it mean to be exiled?
2. What is freight?
3. What do you do when you feel like you are freezing?
4. When do you need shelter?
5. What do you do when a stranger approaches you?
6. Why were the Kalmyks able to survive?

IIa. More Vocabulary
Match the words that are opposites.

A. freezing
1. friends
B. enemies
2. prevented
C. dead
3. rewarded
D. punished
4. burning
E. allowed
5. alive

III. Now you Talk
1. Discuss why this exile happened.
2. Share whatever you know about the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).
3. Why was the Siberian woman tolerant of the Kalmykians?
4. What would you have done if you were a Kalmykian? A Siberian?

IV. Now you Write
1. Write about your answers to one or more of the above questions.
2. Write a summary of the story.
3. Write a dialogue between two people in this story.

V. Role Play
1. Young Granny and two soldiers: She asks to stay at home.
2. Young Granny and the mother in the train: the young girl wants food.
3. The family and an intolerant Siberian family: The Siberian family refuses to help.
4. The young girl and a Siberian woman: The woman offers shelter.
5. The young girl and an old friend, 13 years later: They share experiences.