Days and Lives :: Arrest

Prisoner: Aleksandr Borin

“It happened in prison. After I was arrested I was brought to a building that felt like a stone bag—a concrete dungeon with iron gates. The gates clanged dully behind me, shutting me out of the living world. Everything that followed I understood as if in a dream, without any clear memories: a man in a uniform who recorded my personal data; another, who escorted me along the corridor and passed me to the third one; the third buzzed my hair off, then handed me a piece of gray soap the size of a quarter of a matchbox, and took me to a tiny bath which would fit no more than four people.”

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.