Your dad survived the Gulag?! Wow, that is no small achievement. And he was able somehow to then make his way to the USA? Have you told his story on here before? If not, would you be willing to share it with us? I was a Russian historian in an earlier phase of my life, and I'd be fascinated to learn more. I'm sure I'm not the only one.
I grew up listening to the stories of many of the people who survived those times, I don't know where they found the strength.
My Dad was just a kid in Przemysl, Poland, and in 1939 the Russians invaded eastern Poland, taking millions to Siberia, and other places I'm sure. His mother died in the camps, she lost her mind and could not handle it. My Dad lost track of his father, older sister and younger sister. He came down with dysentery and was very ill, don't know exactly how he got out of Russia, but the Polish troops picked him up and put him in the hospital for 6 months to recover. He said if he was not so young, he would never have lived.
He was years too young to join the army, but being so ill aged him and he lied about his age to join the Polish Second Corps under General Wladyslaw Anders. While training with the men's Polish troops, the women's troops were training across the fence, and his older sister was there - she had gotten out of Siberia and ran to the fence, to tell him to meet her in England, when the war was over that was her plan. He went to Iran, Iraq, Egypt (saw and went inside the Pyramids), and was at the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, which he would never speak about until the end of his life, many thousands of Polish people lost their lives and are buried there. In Italy he met an Italian woman and wanted to marry her, but he was still years too young and had to have permission of his Commander, who refused. He said when the war was over, he could return.
But when the war was finally over, he traveled to England and found his older sister, she had married a Polish Army veteran and they were planning to eventually travel to the United States. My Dad met my British Mum while living there, they married at your St. Theresa's Church in Beaconsfield, and they joined his sister in the USA.
They then found their younger sister, nuns had smuggled her out of Russia and got her to the USA. She left the convent and married a millionaire and had her own family.
My Dad's father married a Russian woman and had a whole other family, he remained in Russia for the rest of his life, but was adamantly against the Russian government, and highly critical also of China. Odd how correct he was in warnings to my Dad.
How the people of those times managed to survive is unbelievable, where did they get the strength. And they were the happiest people!