She was lucky to survive in a death camp and to find her family after the war.
As St. Petersburg is preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Second World War, Saint-Petersburg TV Channel reporter Kirill Radiion has spoken to Riva Macijauskas, who was a prisoner of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz when she was a child.
Riva Macijauskas was born in 1937 in Leningrad, as St. Petersburg was called then, to a Jewish father and a Polish mother. At birth, and was given her mother’s surname Kaspirovich. In December of 1940 her family sent the girl to her grandmother to Belarus. In the summer, her mother was to have joined them, but the war interfered with their plans.
Riva’s parents remained in the besieged Leningrad, and she and her grandmother lived on the territory occupied by the Nazi. Two years later, the Nazi sent her and her grandmother to the Auschwitz death camp.
Riva Macijauskas recalls: ‘They tattooed our camp numbers on our arms, a frau in a military cap was doing it. One of them was holding me, and the other was making a tattoo. I fainted.’
Thanks to her Polish surname Riva was not identified as a Jew but was placed in a barrack with Belarussians. She remembers the cold, hunger and humiliation.
‘We were invited to Auschwitz for the 60th anniversary of the Victory. I used to tell everybody that there were no windows in the barracks, because we were not allowed to lift our heads. When I came there and raised my head I saw that there were windows under the ceiling,’ Riva Macijauskas tells.
She does not remember the moment of liberation in January of 1945. Just their warders disappeared. All the children were taken to an orphanage in Kiev. Riva’s family did not know what happened to her. By happy coincidence, when her grandmother was telling about her lost granddaughter to another woman in a queue in a grocery store, a girl ran up to them saying she was in the same orphanage with Riva Kaspirovich. It was in 1948. When her mother came to take her home, Riva did not want to leave. They were both crying.
‘Now, I understand that the emotional ties were broken. I just knew it was my mother and I was her daughter,’ Riva Macijauskas explains.
In the end, they returned to Leningrad. Riva grew up, became a teacher, got married. She and her husband have a daughter, a grandson, and three great-grandchildren. Riva Macijauskas’ only dream is that Holocaust should never happen again.
Photo and video: St. Petersburg TV channel