In three hours and a half, our car arrived at the destination, Yelabuga. First, we met a middle-aged Russian who takes care of the cemetery, and we headed toward the cemetery to payourrespect.
It was at alarge piece of property in the suburb, surrounded byahalf-rotten white wooden fence. After turning to right from the road, there was an entrance. The cemetery was shrouded in shadows, surrounded by tall trees. There was a nice breeze and was rather cool under the hot sun. Toward the right, there were monuments for the spirits of the deseased. We paid respect to all eighty five of them.
Those monuments were constructed in the spring of 1948, in the year three fourth of the captives in both of the gulags A and B went home. Back then, I was in charge of the supplies forthe main regiment, which was the office that organized management of the gulags. We talked about the importance of making the monument to comfort the souls that were lost, and looked for appropriate rocks, and carvednames. We also buried a duralumin board with their names carved on it. We truly wished we would be able to keep remembering them in the future, for a long time to come.
At that time, ten of us stood in front of the monuments and pressed our hands in prayer. I took two of the pictures that showed how we were bowing our heads deeply to the monuments back home to Japan with a hand-made camera. I carefully sewed them inside my military jacket.
Later, whenthe Sovietsmade an unbelievable false announcement that there was no death among Japanese military personnel and civilians in Japanese militaryemployment, Asahi newspaper printed my photo in the article, with their objection to prove there is even a monument for the deceased. That way, my photo was used as a valuable source to prove howthe Soviet announcement was a totallyanirresponsible remark.
When my friends like Mr. Togashi who used to be in the same gulag in Yelabuga went back there to make the first visit to the cemetery after the war, I contacted the ambassador of Japan in Moscow and made several requests because I was the vice-minister in the Ministry of Finance. It was because the Russianswere very secretive and limited domestic travelling quite a bit. Thus, it was not easy for us to go to Yelabuga without special arrangements.
I told Mr. Togashi about the duralumin board and asked him to find out what happened to them. Also, I told him there should be more than hundred people who died, instead of seventy.
According to the report from Mr. Togashi, the number of the deceased was seventy-five, and it matched with the numbers of the stone frames. He also told me he could not find the duralumin board. Then I asked if he tried to separate the monument from the stone pedestal, but he said he could not move the monument.
Therefore, this time, during my visit to the cemetery, I wanted to find out what happened, but I could not accomplish that. It was because the monument and the stone pedestal were firmly put together by white cement or something, and it was impossible to look inside the area. If I had a special tool such as a crow bar, it could have been done, but I did not have time for it.
In front of the monument, I bowed down deeply and prayed for the spirits of the deceased comrades with regrets. Listening to the sound of the wind going around the trees that surround the cemetery, I thought about the fortune of my visit fifty years after I left. I was truly filled with emotion and stayed in silence, comforting the souls that were lost.
Although there are tomb stones, I wonder if the bodies are still there. I doubt it. People who died during the internment was stripped of all clothes and was buried in the holes naked during summer. So an individual grave was not made for each person. Therefore, the current tomb stones we see there must be somethingtheSovietsmade quickly after they heard a group of people were visiting from Japan to pay respect.