Days and Lives :: Arrest

Prisoner: Susanna Pechuro

“Some of the parents of my friends banned them from attending the sessions of our society. And it was our former teacher who gave a phone call to the Lubyanka which led to the eventual arrests. In the course of our discussions, other questions not of literary character had arisen…We discussed a lot and we came to conclusions that what was happening around us then was absolutely different from what we were being taught to believe – that it wasn’t socialism, but there were two imperialist camps: one American the other Soviet, and that there was no democracy in the Soviet Union. We expected to be arrested and we were prepared to face the firing squad. And we knew that they would torture us before they kill us. That’s why when we got to prison we were not surprised by how they were treating us.”

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.