1942 proved to be the most devastating year of Yuri Gutsatz’s life. Having signed up for the Foreign Legion, Yuri stayed in Marseille after a year of service. As a Russian Jew, it was unsafe for him to return to occupied Paris. Sadly, his mother Alvina and his grandparents were trapped by the German occupation and unable to flee. In July of 1942 Alvina’s letters to Yuri stopped and he was later to discover that she and his grand-mother Gueni had been victims of the Vel d’Hiv roundup and taken to Auschwitz where they were not heard from again. Meanwhile, David Gutsatz died the same year in Leningrad, most likely due to the famine and disease during the siege which saw a million persons lose their lives.

On Yuri’s return to Paris in 1945, he found himself alone in the world. His grief and loneliness are unimaginable, but a light shone through the darkness when he met a young woman named Arlette, whom he remained in love with until his dying day. But that’s another story…

The photograph above is from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and shows Jews in occupied Paris before the purge.

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