Days and Lives :: Solidarity

Prisoner: Anna Larina

Anna Larina learned of the death of her husband, Bukharin, from a fellow prisoner who had no idea who she was. They communicated by tapping on the walls of their cells. “’The bastards murdered Bukharin,’ I heard again, and my doubts faded away. Every single letter of his sentence, like a metal weight, banged into my brain. Although it would be best to cut off the conversation, since I still feared this might be provocation, the temptation was too great. I had a passionate desire to find out as much as I could. During the following days, I grew attached to this condemned man who knew the true story of the trials and loved Nikolai Ivanovich still. In the evenings, listening to his distinct tapping on the wall, I could not reconcile the firm even tap of his hand with the death sentence. When I heard his last words I was deeply shaken.”

National Solidarity

Nationality groups in the Gulag tended to form tight-knit mutual-assistance networks, especially among those who spoke languages other than Russian.

Prisoner cooks tended to favor their co-nationals with the best food. Prisoners evaluated one another’s trustworthiness based on stereotyped images of national identity. Thus, former prisoner Edward Buca remembered that some Georgians trusted him, a Pole, because “the Poles aren’t usually double-crossers.” Co-nationals were often the key to survival in a world where it was difficult, even impossible, to survive alone.