Days and Lives :: Arrest

Prisoner: Olga Adamova-Sliozberg

Adamova-Sliozberg was arrested in 1936 after she returned from the congress of award-winning workers (“Stakhanovites”) held in Vitebsk. “They came for me the day after my return to Moscow… While they were searching my apartment for four hours I was organizing the materials from the congress. I could not recognize that my life was over, I was afraid to acknowledge the fact that my children were being taken away from me… I do not know what I thought, the inertia of work, or maybe the turmoil from fear were so strong, that I worked precisely and effectively, as if I was sitting in my own office at the ministry. The detective who conducted the search finally took pity on me: ‘You’d better say good-bye to your children!’”

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.