Days and Lives takes you inside the brutal system of forced labor concentration camps and the internal exile institution called the Gulag. Soviet authorities found the Gulag to be a useful tool in neutralizing, and often physically destroying, all real or imagined opposition to the Communist Party's dictatorship beginning in 1917. Since it also served as the main Soviet penal system, political prisoners were imprisoned with violent criminals. In the Stalin era, some 18 million people passed through the prisons and camps of the Gulag, and perhaps another 6 or 7 million were sent into exile. More than one and a half million prisoners died in the Gulag at the hands of their government. Even those who survived struggled to rebuild their lives when they were finally released.
In this exhibit, one former Gulag prisoner will accompany you through themed sections. Each section explores one piece of this brutal institution by presenting individual experiences, photographs, documentary films, and historical context to describe life in the Gulag.
Prisoner: Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia
Evfrosiniia Kersnovskaia was born in Odessa in an aristocratic family. Her family moved to Bessarabia where she became a farmer and a veterinarian. After Soviet troops came to Bessarabia, she and her 64-year old mother were removed from their house in 1940, and exiled as landowners [“pomeshchiki”] to Siberia in June 1941. Kersnovskaia escaped in 1942 but was caught and accused of espionage. She was sent to Barnaul and Narym prisons and then to the camps in Novosibirsk and Norilsk.