• Anna Nho,
    Almaty, KazakhstanMORE...

    Anna Nho is my name. I was born in Vladivostok, Primorsky Region, in the USSR, on November 25, 1927. My family was Korean, and my mother taught Korean, and my father was a fisherman. Our family owned this small island and a motorboat for our fishing business. When our dad died early in life, he left 12 children, and I was the youngest. So we had to look for some sort of help from the government. One of my sisters' husbands was the first secretary of the local Communist Party branch, and he was able to arrange a personal meeting with some high-ranking government officials to find a way to help my family. We agreed to give our business and island to the government. In exchange, they would give us a house and land for farming. Life was more comfortable after that.

    In 1937 many Koreans were deported from the Far East. We were transferred to Karaganda in Kazakhstan. They put up tents for housing. A few families lived in each one, but it was so cold that someone died every day. Then they suddenly decided to move all of us to Bukhara in Uzbekistan. They just loaded all of us up on freight trains and sent us there.

    Our uncle who was with us and couldn't take it any longer, decided to go and meet with Stalin in Moscow. He actually met Stalin before. He had a picture of them together, which he carried around. So he packed a bag and just went away. He said he would walk to Moscow if he had to. We all thought he died but he did make it. He looked like a homeless man and tried numerous times to get into Kremlin. He was finally let in after one of the NKVD officers told Stalin that there was a very persistent man determined to see him. Stalin remembered him so they fed him, cleaned him; and then they finally talked.

    Stalin said to him, "I can't help you, but I can offer you this: I'll send you to Ordzhonikidze where they don't know how to grow rice in the Caucasus. You can help them organize a rice kolkhoz. Ordzhonikidze will help you with everything." Some time later we saw in the paper that our uncle was looking for us, so we went to the Caucasus and joined him. After that, things were fine; mom remarried and studied and worked.

    Then in 1941, when I was in the 8th grade, I heard on the radio that the Great War broke out. I saw a notice on the bulletin board in school that our motherland needed volunteers. So I passed all of my exams for the 8th grade in June, and on July 1st I signed up as a volunteer and as a daughter of my motherland. I was a Komsomol member on the Northern Caucasus front. At the time, our duties were mainly digging trenches. So I was doing that during the day, and in the evening I started taking medical courses to become a nurse. I became a field nurse, giving first aid to our soldiers before sending them to the hospital. I was on the front lines until Stalin ordered all underage volunteers to return to their studies in November of 1943.

    So I went back to my family. Shortly after that we were evacuated to Kazakhstan. I worked various jobs and moved around a lot, but it was troubling to realize how people treated me differently because I was Korean. One guy in a kolkhoz I was working at told me that I was a liar - that no Korean was allowed to be on the front lines. I got so angry that I threw an inkbottle at him and he got all dirty. I almost got kicked out of Komsomol, but shortly after that incident my family moved again. We were ordered to work on a rice kolkhoz in the Far East, but I worked as a nurse. There was a typhus epidemic at the time and anybody who knew medicine was in high demand. I worked in the hospital room in the morning and at the Komsomol office in the evening (I was once responsible for the Party agitation in our kolkhoz).

    As it was, I had always been devoted to the Party and was always loyal to the ideals of Komsomol. This always remained so despite how my family and other Koreans were just thrown around and constantly relocated throughout the Soviet Union by Stalin and the Communist Party. I guess my youth and that of other Koreans was pretty rough because of this. Still, loyalty was an important thing.

    In 1948 I moved to Almaty without any papers, only my Komsomol card and medals. I struggled at first because it was virtually impossible to work without identification, but finally I got new papers and found a job as a cashier. After that, many things happened. I continued my studies and working in retail. I worked once at a train depot too. I was very active in my community, and I always remained loyal to the Party and to the Komsomol. I always believed that my work was to do good for the society.

    In 1949 I was happily married. But my husband worked for the government and was killed on duty. Both of my sons are also dead. The first one died from sickness, and the second one died tragically while in the police service. He was a policeman here in Almaty at the time, and saved a woman during a fire. He saved her, but couldn't save himself. So yes, life has been hard. But many are the memories that give me joy and happiness.