“First of all, my father died in 1971. He thought his parents died during the siege of Leningrad. Maybe a million people died of starvation at that time. And even me, I went on this package holiday to Leningrad in 1987 and a part of the program was this visit to Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery where those hundred thousands of victims had been buried. That's quite a depressing experience. I thought my grandparents were there. My father exchanged letters with them before the war, and when the war was over, they wouldn't answer. He thought they died during the siege of Leningrad. But then this cousin of his, who I had mentioned before, wrote us a letter. Nowadays, I don't speak Russian much, but I will give you the original Russian version: 'Istoria našej semji tragična, kak i mnogih drugih semjej v Rossii.’ Our family history is a tragic one, the same as the histories of many other families in Russia. And after that, she would tell us the whole thing. The interesting thing was that they were apprehended in 1941, just before Leningrad was besieged. The siege started in September. First, they would lock up her father, it was in March. He was 38 years old. Four months later, he died in a Gulag camp somewhere in Siberia. Shortly after that, they would imprison my grandmother as well, mother of this Vladimir I was talking about. Three months later, she died in Leningrad's Prison No. 2. And by chance, the day she died, they arrested her husband, my grandfather. He died four months later, in some hospital near Novosibirsk. My grandmother was 66 years old, my grandfather was 72 years old, they weren't that old. It shows how the conditions were in Russian prisons and in the Gulag camps. They would die three to four months after they were arrested. When I saw the dates they were arrested, I found out that they would lock them up after the siege of Leningrad had started. They didn't hesitate to arrest people, and even when you already couldn't cross the Ladoga lake in many cases, they would take those people to Gulag camps. That's something I just can't understand.”
“Later, in the second half of 1918 I would say, he joined the Wrangel's liberation army, which had been operating mainly in Ukraine. But that didn't take long, he might be with them for maybe half-a-year. But the Whites kept losing, in this struggle of theirs against the Reds. I heard a few stories from those times, as he was risking his life quite often. Pressured by the Reds they would retreat all the way to Crimea, then there was nowhere to go. Fortunately, they were led by this general Wrangel, who was indeed an efficient soldier. As he had experience from the First World War. That happened around 12 November 1920. In the course of two weeks, Wrangel managed to organise this evacuation of his army to Istanbul. Two hundred and fifty ships were used to transport maybe 150 000 people. That was something terrible. Before he left, he left a note for his soldiers, stating that they weren't obliged to leave the country. Many of them chose to stay in Russia. We don't know the exact numbers. Maybe 90 to 120 thousand people, who were executed by the Bolsheviks after they advanced to Crimea.”
My father believed his parents died during the siege of Leningrad. In fact they died in prison
Jiří Merger was born on 8 October 1940 in Prague to a family of Russian emigré, Jiří (born Georgy) Merger. His father came from a St. Petersburg family, he fought in the First World War as an officer and later had been a member of Wrangel‘s White Army. In 1920 he was evacuated to Turkey from Crimea, from where he traveled to Europe. In 1922, he settled down in Czechoslovakia, where he studied transportation engineering at the Czech Technical University in Prague. For most of his life, he had been working as a communications expert at Prague municipality. His son, Jiří Merger Junior, graduated from the Czech Technical University as well. All his life, he had been working at Karel Prager‘s studio, then at the District institute of planning and opened his own studio after 1989. Only in the late 1990s, thanks to his cousin from Russia with whom he exchanged letters, he found out what had happened to his grandparents. His father believed that they died of hunger during the siege of Leningrad. But in fact, they had been arrested by NKVD in 1941 or 1942 and imprisoned. They died after three or four months: his grandmother in a prison in Leningrad, his grandfather while he was being transported to a Gulag camp.