Days and Lives :: Guards

Prisoner: Nina Gagen-Torn

“Mordovka” comes in—the most meticulous and picky among the female guards… She searches our beds: feels under our shirts, turns over our pillows. Klava is sitting on her bed. She carefully moves a pouch with candy in her night stand. “Mordovka” runs to the night stand. She thinks that something is hidden there—otherwise, Klava wouldn’t move the pouch. She grabs the pouch and scatters the candy all over the floor…The officer sent for me. “I promised to return the manuscripts,” he said, “if you want, I’ll return them. However, I wouldn’t recommend it—they can be removed from you during the first search at the transfer point. I suggest you leave them with me, if you trust me. When you arrive at your destination, let me know your address and I’ll send them by mail… I have to say he did keep his promise. Not only did he send the manuscripts, he also sent a confirmation telegram. Thanks to this telegram I was able to obtain the manuscripts from the local administration.”

Guard Violence

Gulag guards endured their own brutal existence, and through a combination of frustration and indoctrination they frequently directed that brutality at inmates. In this videoclip, former prisoner Oleg Volkov recalls some of the violence at one of the Soviet Union’s first Gulag camps, in the Solovetsky islands.