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: Edward Buca
During World War II Edward Buca was a soldier in the Polish Home Army, the Polish underground resistance movement in German-occupied Poland, when he was arrested with a group of other soldiers for alleged treason to the Soviet Union. He spent thirteen years in the Gulag, much of it in Vorkuta. Buca was one of the leaders of the famous prisoner uprising at Vorkuta after Stalin’s death in 1953. Even after he was released from the Gulag and returned to Poland, Polish authorities still treated Buca with suspicion. Buca fled to Sweden in 1959.