A Gulag Is Now a Police School

From the cemetery in Yelabuga, we went to the building of B gulag.  Yellow stone walls made of bricks so familiar to me came into my view.  There was a building for the guards as well.  After entering into the gate, many residents came to see us. They all wanted to explain what those buildings were.  

I think I livedin the building of B gulag for longer than a half a year from January 1stof 1946.  The first and the second buildings were already demolished, but I think I was in one of them.  The former kitchen was still there.  The buildings were utilized for the apartmentsfor the citizens, and Russians who came out were the residents of the aparmentbuilding.

They said, “ Some Japanese who came here before brought various gifts for us.  Do you have anything for us too?”   It seemed they were used to receiving gifts from others who had visited before.  It was unpleasant.  I did not bring anything, but if they demanded it, I did not want to give anything.  Well, there was actually not any reason to give them any gift.  It would have been a different story if they said they would take care of the cemetery.

I ran from B gulag to A gulag.  On my way there, I thought there was a building that was familiar, but it couldhavebeen an illusion.  I heard that the city of Yelabuga had a population growth as an industrial city after the war, but there were not enough changes in town.  I even thought the population increase may have happened in the suburb.  

When I arrived at A gulag, I was not allowed to enter the building right away even though Mr. Kirichenko previously arranged it for me.  Since it was now a school for the police, they may assume they are so important.  I took a walk around the area until the gate opened. The first thing I remembered in A gulag was the run down tower of a church, but it was painted nicely into white, and looked different from the past.  

Ever since the Lenin government started, religions were persecuted as “Religionis opium.”  Churches in each area were oppressed, structures were demolished or became warehouses.  When I was there, the church in Yelbuga was used as a warehouse for food.  The statuesof the Virgin Mary and Christ were painted with black ink, and the cross was broken.  The merciless figures reminded us of the awful forceof the destruction of the revolution.  The church, however, at least became clean outside the structure and revitalized.  I did not know anything further though because I could not get inside.  

I was not totally sure, but it seemed that various buildings that used to be the administration bureau and where we watched movies, were still there.  There was summer grass growing all over.  Movies were frequently shown back then for the Soviets working in the administration bureau.  It was a country town without any particular fun things to do.  Especially during the long winter, the movies were one of the few enjoyments.

After waitingagood one hour, we were finally able to go inside the gate of the former gulag.  Around the gate, there were many people who looked like policemen.  The building that used to be the gulag became a school for the police.  I went inside, and looked for the building of the main quarter of the regiment where I used to live as a head officer to provide supplies.

I had the impression that many buildings were added even though old structures were left there, but I am not sure. Trees have really grown in and made the whole area look different.  Fifty years had passed.   So the changes were to be expected.

As I walked straight on the road from the main gate, there was a small church building at the end.  There, I turned to the right, and walked along the top of the cliff that overlooked the Kama river, and then came back following the iron fence.  Along the way, there was a memorial monument which was made with shells of the cannon lined up.  There were many bullet holes.  I heard they were made during the civil war during the revolution.  

After I walked around the gulag, I was convinced how memory can be uncertain.  

The image of the gulag that stayed in my head for a long time was totally different.  Where did the head quarter of the regimentcottage, kitchen, bread factory, power plant, outpatient clinic, and hospital disappearto?  I had nobody to ask.  Even Mr. Kirichenko would not have access to such information, and at any rate, I could not think about who to ask.  After fifty years of time, it was very difficult.

Colonel Suketaka Tanemura was the head at the main headquarter of the regimentfor a year.  He was invited to Moscow for a long time for the investigation.  While he was the head, my room was next to his. I heard from him that he had put away the documents from the days when he was the head of the leaders of the war in the Imperial General Headquarters somewhere safe, and that he was planning to publish a book after hegot back to Japan.  

As was described, the book titled as “Diary of the secrets of the Imperial General Headquarters” (Fuyo Bookstore) by Suketaka Tanemura was published.  I purchased one.  Since I heard that he was working in the research room of war history at the Ministry of Defensein Ichigaya, I tried to contact him.  Then one day, he suddenly showed up in my room atthe Ministry of Finance.  I was truly surprised.  He was always smiling, and was truly a praiseworthy military man, but it has been a while since he passed away. 

While I was walking in the gulag for about an hour, I did not particularly have any sentiment.  There are many things that I remember from those days. Until the temperature went down to twentydegrees below, we had to work outside.  We were always hungry with such scarce amount of food.  There was an officer who stole bread enough for one company of fifty people, but was found out before eating it and was thrown into the detention barrack without food for three days.  Soviet soldierswere so poor at counting that they could not count people who were going out to work efficiently—after writing four, four, four on a gate pole, they could not do multiplication, and just kept adding, saying four, eight, and twelve.  Sometimes they made a mistake in the middle of the counting, and had to count again, taking one whole hour.  There were many more experiences, but all were what happened in the past.  Luckily, the sad memories must have prevented me from remembering many other things.