Days and Lives :: Fates

Prisoner: Alexander Dolgun

Dolgun’s sister had moved to the U.S. to work at the United Nations. Once she became aware that he had been arrested, she tried to get him released from prison but was told by U.S. officials that she could make his situation worse. He was released from prison in 1956 but was not allowed to leave the country until 1972. He was married in 1965. He finally received his American passport in 1972 and was flown to the U.S. with his wife and son.

Out of the Camp

Survivors

Millions of people did survive the Gulag. Whether among the 20–40 percent of the camp population released on a yearly basis throughout the Stalin era, or among the 2–3 million who went home after Stalin died, perhaps as many as 16 million who entered the Gulag came out alive.

But the Gulag even destroyed the lives of those who survived it. Families were torn apart when spouses were pressured to divorce their “enemy” relatives. Children were taken away from prisoner mothers, often never to be reunited again. The Gulag exacted a physical and psychological toll from which many would never recover.

Upon release from the Gulag, many inmates were denied permission to return to their former homes and were forced either to live in remote exile or to live no fewer than one hundred kilometers from the Soviet Union’s largest cities. With a notation of their imprisonment in their official identity documents, former Gulag inmates were discriminated against in employment and access to housing. Government officials, fellow citizens, and even former friends treated them as pariahs, greeting them with suspicion at best, hatred at worst.