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Oral history interview with Dalija Epshtein

Oral History | Accession Number: 2018.454.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0988

Dalija Epshtein, born on March 25, 1937 in Jonava, Lithuania, discusses being the younger of two daughters of a well-to-do engineer from Jonava; how her Lithuanian parents met on a street in Paris, and discovered they were both from the same town in Lithuania; her parents’ life in France, where her father was an engineer specializing in drafting plans for water, gas, and electrical lines for new construction of planned communities (he had finished his schooling in Liege, Belgium); her older sister who was born in France; the family’s unexpected return to Lithuania to help run her mother’s family’s business, which was supposed to be temporary but ended up being permanent; her parents’ interest in the Soviet Union and a tourist trip they took there in the second half of the 1930s, from which they returned even more enthusiastic than before; her father’s petition to join the Communist Party, which at first was rejected because of his bourgeois background (he eventually was allowed to join after the war); the appointment of her father to a prominent post during the first Soviet occupation of Lithuania from 1939-1941, and how the family fled eastwards when Germany attacked, albeit without her older sister who was away at camp near the Lithuanian seaside and was due to return home the following day; her sister’s fate due to father’s decision to leave her sister at the camp overnight and declining the offer of someone who was willing to pick her up; how her father’s decision cast a shadow over the family for the rest of their lives, as it was made for ideological reasons (he refused the offer because it looked like favoritism and elitism to him--if all were now equal, then his child should return from camp by bus with all the other children--and almost none of the children returned); life inside the Soviet Union for herself and her parents as members of this pro-Soviet refugee group and how they lived in different cities of the country (Alma Ata, Shymkent, Sverdlovsk, Penza, and Moscow); the arrest and imprisonment of some of the members of this group for trumped up charges of being spies; returning to Lithuania once the war was over; how the antisemitism in the Soviet system caused her father to lose his high position in a post-war ministry, and his acceptance of this situation; her father’s unshakeable faith in the authorities and how this created a greater and greater divide between herself and him as she was growing up; her studies in Moscow in the 1950s at the Institute of Literature; training to be a translator of fiction; her association with friends of Boris Pasternak; her experiences of being interrogated by the KGB; and being the current editor of the bilingual magazine on Lithuanian-Jewish culture, Brasta.


Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Interviewee
Dalija Epshtein
Interviewer
Ina Navazelskis
Date
interview:  2018 October 03
Geography
creation: Vilnius (Lithuania)
Language
Lithuanian
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Record last modified: 2018-11-02 14:07:23
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn628340