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The final chapter [ Stories from Siberia]

The last chapter [Stories from Siberia]
Irena ‘s premonition that she would never see her grand niece again came true. She died in 2011 at the age of 89 in the Kaunas hospital, as a result of slipping and hitting her head on an icy pavement outside her block of flats. Irena had been looking forward to seeing me, as I had previously talked to her on the phone making arrangements to visit her that autumn. Instead, I received an email from one of Irena’s relatives telling me that she’d died. It was too late to postpone my trip to Lithuania.
Instead, Irena’s granddaughter Juliya walked all over Kaunas with me, reminiscing about her grandmothers and their 37 year exile in Siberia. Proudly, she showed me the new Acropolis Shopping Centre , but all I could think about, were the little kiosks that I had first seen in 1991.Then we went into the Soboras cathedral , where Juliya played the huge church organ. You can see a photo of this church below. Relatives had ensured that her grand mother Irena was buried next to her beloved sister Victoria and their mother Jadze. Juliya handed me Irena’s memoirs before I left, saying that her grandmother had always wanted me to have them.
Translator’s note: Translating Irena’s memoirs ended up being a six month journey. I decided to post a weekly Notebook episode, and I found it emotionally exhausting to read Irena’s story in Lithuanian. I could almost see my great aunt was sitting in her usual spot in her kitchen talking to me and strangely, I often dreamt of her and Victoria whilst translating their life story. Despite their 37 years of exile in Siberia, Irena and Victoria did not hold any grudges against the Russians. They told me that they had met many warm hearted Siberian villagers who took pity on them and gave them food when they were nearly starving.
I am very grateful for all the encouragement that I received from numerous italki members, when I first posted a Notebook entry asking whether I should translate and publish these stories of a life in exile. From the comments that people posted after each episode, I realized that many people were not aware of these tragic events in Lithuania’s history. My heartfelt thanks to Perla who has faithfully translated each episode into Spanish and to Melfree for his translations into Chinese.




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