Days and Lives :: Arrest

Prisoner: Nina Pavlovna Aminova

Aminova was arrested at work. “On March 18,1953 a man in boots and a light coat came to the laboratory. He informed Olga Preobrazhenskaia and me that we were being summoned… I thought, where could I possibly be summoned. Then I remembered that the day before there was a meeting on the occasion of Stalin’s death and thought, maybe they want me to give a speech at another meeting… We got to the entrance… The man sent Olya and me in opposite directions. I entered the room… They told me, ‘You’re under arrest.’ I asked, ‘Why?’ They didn’t reply… They took me to the next room and searched me; put me in a car and took me to the dormitory to get my things… [They] took my only watch and a gilded powder case… It was springtime… They took me to the ‘Grey House’ [The Secret Police Headquarters] in Yaroslavl and put me in a cell meant for two prisoners.”

An Enemy of the People

Those Left Behind

The parents, spouses, and children whom prisoners left behind faced a difficult life. In her poem "Requiem," Anna Akhmatova voiced the pain of those hoping for the slightest news about the fate of loved ones on the far side of the prison wall.

In the terrible years of the Yezhov terror I spent seventeen months waiting in line outside the prison in Leningrad

And I pray not for myself alone
but for all who stood outside the jail,

in bitter cold or summer's blaze,
with me under that blind red wall...

And if my country should ever assent
to casting in my name a monument,

I should be proud to have my memory graced,
but only if the monument be placed

not near the sea on which my eyes first opened—
my last link with the sea has long bee broken...

but here, where I endured three hundred hours
in line before the implacable iron bars...

And from my motionless bronze-lidded sockets
may the melting show, like teardrops, slowly trickle...

Poems of Akhmatova, selected, translated, and introduced by Stanley Kunitz with Max Hayward. Boston, 1973.