Captured by the Soviets in 1944 as he tries to flee across the Turkish border with his fellow German diplomats from the German Legation in Sofia, Bulgaria, Roland Gottlieb leaves behind his wife, two young daughters and his newborn baby girl, whom he never got to see. For six years the family lives in uncertainty of where exactly he is in the vast Soviet Union’s Gulag, or even whether he is dead or alive.
Lives Divided is Birgitta’s story of what life was like growing up in Sweden without her father, seeing her mother’s despair that changes into hopefulness when news reaches them from a returning POW that her father is in Vorkuta, Siberia. Two years later this hope is dashed when another POW claims Roland Gottlieb lies buried in the Siberian tundra.
Finally, resigning herself that her husband will never come back, Birgitta’s mother is about to remarry when a post card changes everything.
Many years later, after her father passed away, a question that confronted Birgitta was: What was she going to do about the legacy he left behind, not his earthly possessions, but rather his handwritten memoirs? After all, he had quite a story to tell about the five years he spent in Lefortovo Prison in Moscow and his six years in a slave labor camp in Vorkuta, Siberia as a political POW after World War II.
Both Birgitta’s parents were passionate writers and archivists, saving every letter received and carbons of letters sent and years of correspondence and journals, which left her with a wealth of personal history as well as documentation of her mother’s determined efforts to discover what had happened to her husband.
In Lives Divided, Birgitta uses this trove of resources, as well as her own experiences and memories to tell the story of her father Roland Gottlieb, the life he and her family shared before and during WWII and their years apart.