Sana Meler-Levina and Miron Meler, children of Yudel Meler. Courtesy of Lithuanian Special Archives.
In 1941, Yudel Meler, a Jewish man from Lithuania, was forcibly separated from his beloved family by the Soviets. Accused of "exploiting" employees in his printing house in Rokiškis, Yudel was sent to Reshoty, while his wife and children were exiled to Altai.
Over three thousand men, including government officials and political figures, were sent to Reshoty, where life was merciless. Within the first year, approximately 2,000 prisoners succumbed to harsh labor, unbearable hunger, cold, and diseases.
Yet, Yudel persevered. He held onto a hidden photograph of his children, Sana and Miron, cleverly sewn into his coat. This cherished keepsake served as a secret talisman, a constant reminder to never lose hope for his family, even during the darkest days.
In June 1941, Lithuania experienced a massive deportation of approximately 17,500 people. Families from diverse backgrounds, professions, religions, and political beliefs were forcibly uprooted from their homes and sent to remote regions within the Soviet Union.