Days and Lives :: Fates

Prisoner: Olga Adamova-Sliozberg

Olga was released on April 27 1944 after her mother succeeded in changing her conviction from “terror” to “failure to report.” The latter allowed her, alone in her group, to be released immediately after serving her term. Initially, she was not allowed to go to the mainland. However, in 1946 because of her relatives’ efforts she was able to leave Kolyma. Olga was rehabilitated in 1956, 20 years after she was arrested. “I could not stay calm, it was hard to breathe because of my tears… I cried for my husband, who perished in the Lubyanka’s basement at the age of 37, at the prime of life and talent; for my children, who grew up as orphans, branded as children of the “enemies of the people;” for my parents who died of grief, for twenty years of suffering, for my friends, who did not live long enough to see their own rehabilitation and were buried in Kolyma’s frozen land.”

Introduction

Survivors of the Gulag often found their former lives torn apart and irrecoverable after leaving the camps. Released prisoners experienced discrimination and alienation making living and working difficult. Those who did survive have contributed immensely to the documentation of the Gulag's history.

Listen to the sound or read the transcript below.

Movie Transcription

Across the former Soviet Union, millions lie in anonymous graves. Whether shot in a prison basement, or killed in Gulag camps by exhaustion, starvation, malnutrition-related illness, labor accident, or the violence of fellow prisoners and guards, millions died at the hands of Soviet terror.

Telling the story of the Gulag through the eyes of its prisoners inevitably excludes the stories of those millions who died. These victims did not make it out of the camps to publish memoirs. Their stories are buried beneath the grounds of Siberia, Kazakhstan and the whole of the former Soviet Union.

Even those who survived the camps emerged traumatized and brutalized. Readjusting to life outside the camps would be a struggle. Many former inmates maintained life-long bonds with their fellow inmates after leaving the camps, and many continue to struggle to keep the Gulag’s memory alive to prevent new human rights abuses in the countries of the former Soviet Union today.