Days and Lives :: Guards

Prisoner: Boris Chetverikov

“During those days Kulakov introduced a new way of weakening my body. As I had mentioned, during the day it was prohibited to sleep or lie down in prison. Kulakov would send for me in late evening, thus not allowing me to sleep during the allotted time. At five o’clock in the morning I would again be taken downstairs, put near the door of Kulakov’s office, and left alone. I would stand for five hours in a completely empty building. Sometimes I couldn’t tolerate it and lied down on floor. Kulakov would return at ten o’clock and examine each corner because there was a chance that I wouldn’t be able to hold it and would skip the restroom. However, everything was clean: I was on a hunger strike and had no use for a restroom. In the meantime, they could send me to the isolation cell for soiling the room.”

The Climate

The extreme climates of the Gulag did not discriminate. Though they had better food, clothing, and shelter than the prisoners, guards also suffered from the brutal conditions. As former Gulag prisoner Joseph Scholmer recalled, "Most of the soldiers at Vorkuta are simple creatures, who are really just as much prisoners of the tundra and victims of the cold as the prisoners themselves. Service up there in the north is a sort of exile for them. Their life consists of guard duties, drill, and occasional visits to the cinemas in the town to which they are marched off in little columns."