Days and Lives :: Labor

Prisoner: Danylo Shumuk

“Upon my release from the isolator, I was again assigned to the quarry, but I went immediately to see the production chief. ‘Either assign me to the construction work in Melnyk’s night brigade,’ I told him, ‘or send me back to the isolator for another two months, before I transfer my belongings to the barracks.’ At this categorical statement, the production chief quickly raised his eyes and stared at me. ‘What the hell,’ he exclaimed finally, ‘I’ll put you wherever you want, as long as we have some peace and quiet.’ I didn’t really work in Melnyk’s brigade either, for after getting the approval of the brigades’ craftsman I worked at night as a watchman in recently completed buildings and spent my time reading books and newspapers.”

Construction Works at Belomorkanal.

The Nature of Labor Performed

Work. Back-breaking, unskilled, inefficient physical work performed in impossible climates with starvation-level food rations. This was Gulag life.

Movie Transcription

Tamara Petkevich – All of those years, we were hungry, cold and loaded down with impossible physical labor—forestry, digging, breaking rock, in other words, we returned to the barracks so weakened, knowing that at 5:00 in the morning, they would bang on the rails again, which meant that we would have to wake up for roll call and we would have to line up and put on our wet clothes that hadn’t dried out from the previous day, and go back out to the woods. Nikolai Getman – Most of all, we dug mine shafts. But before we dug the shafts, we had to conduct exploratory digs. 2 meters, 3 meters, 4 meters, 5 meters. But you’ve got to realize that this is a permafrost region. Permafrost! We were working with stone, granite. All the labor was done by hand with pickaxes. All the debris had to be removed by hand. This was exhausting labor. Picks had to be sharpened and hardened, yet they never were.