Days and Lives :: Suffering

Prisoner: Anna Andreeva

“Lefortovo was a terrible prison… They didn’t let me sleep for three weeks. Their system was probably developed by doctors: you were allowed to sleep for one hour per 24 hours and one night a week. And people went mad, but not completely. Possibly, one could lose one’s mind completely, but they needed to keep the suspect in a half-mad condition. I was called in for questioning every night… When I returned to the cell, my sleep was not sleep, but delusion. I was falling somewhere… Afterwards the entire day went without sleep; all the time they watched through the spy hole, and I couldn’t even lean against the wall. Then another night of interrogation followed.”

Introduction

Gulag prisoners suffered from terrible living and working conditions in the Gulag. They froze in poorly heated barracks after working in sub-freezing temperatures; battled against hunger; and suffered from treatment that stole their dignity.

Listen to the sound or read the transcript below.

Movie Transcription

Deep, pounding hunger pangs tormented the Gulag prisoner’s every moment. Shoving their way to the cafeteria window, prisoners craved…cried out for food, always knowing but wanting to forget that the thin, watery gruel…that the small hunk of bread (sometimes made of little more than sawdust)…that these pathetic “meals” would never prepare them for the climatic assault of the day.

The pathetic rags, not even worthy of being called “clothes,” no more protected prisoners from the constant cold than the pitiful “food” satisfied their constant hunger. The Gulag, after all, inhabited some of the planet’s coldest places deep in frozen Siberia.

Even the end of the work day brought no respite in this hell. Barely heated, crowded barracks stank of the ill and the dying, though even this was better than the “punished” prisoners who could spend months in a totally unheated, dank punishment cell with no blankets and a sub-starvation penalty food ration.