Days and Lives :: Arrest

Prisoner: Alfred Martinovich Mirek

“On August 29, 1942 at the end of the working day two portly men walked into the shop of the headquarters of the Ministry of Communications, where I worked. They wore blue caps with big flat visors, and their faces had content expressions of hunters who did not venture into the woods in vain. They placed the search warrant on the workbench and sluggishly went through the routine motions of searching me. They took my wallet and documents, including my Komsomol membership certificate, which I worked so hard to get. Then they walked me through the courtyard to the black car “Emka”. They took me to the internal prison of the Lubyanka. The interrogation was led by Novikov. The interrogation occurred only at night. The interrogator with persistence I could not understand kept repeating one thing: ‘Are you going to talk, bandit?!”...I felt that he had not presented himself very clearly, about what he wanted to hear from me and what I was supposed to say. I could understand even less, so I kept silent. I only wanted one thing: for him to leave me alone. ... After one interrogation the detective decided to use another, unconventional method to encourage discussion: he approached me from the left and suddenly stuck a burning cigarette in my neck. For many years a round scar reminded me of this man.”

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.