Days and Lives :: Suffering

Prisoner: Susanna Pechuro

“And the worst thing in that life is transportation from one camp to another. When you are in camp you have friends, and they can support you and help you, but when they take you out, they uproot you and your whole world collapses…And also it’s not only because this process of being transported somewhere is very hard, but emotionally that separation with your close ones, your friends, is equal to what you felt when you were separated from your relatives, and you go through that again and again and again, and you really feel complete despair. You feel that you can’t bear it any more. And then you meet the other people, and new people, and you understand that they’re no better off than you are.”

Despair of a Prisoner

Dehumanization

The indignities visited on prisoners did not stop with the hunger and the cold. Prisoners were frequently reminded that even their bodies were no longer their own.

Former prisoner Nadezhda Grankina recalled the indignities experienced by women arriving at a prison in Suzdal:

In the middle [of the cell], opposite the peephole, stood a table. Fifteen of us were called in. The duty officer came in and announced that anyone who attempted to resist would be severely punished…In came two women in uniform, who began to search us. They looked in our hair, inside our mouths, and between our toes and fingers. Then they ordered us to get dressed again and left. Two other women guards came in. One was wearing a rubber sheath on one of her fingers, and the other was carrying a glass with liquid in it. ’Take off your underpants and lie down,’ one of them said. Horrified, we huddled like sheep in a corner, not saying a word and trying to hide behind each other. Finally a young Austrian [female prisoner] spoke up: ’Oh, this is nothing to be afraid of,’ she declared defiantly, and lay down on the table opposite the peephole. The cover on the peephole continually scraped open and shut. A vaginal search: we also had to endure that. All of us had been brought there from maximum security prisons, and none of us could possibly have had anything illegal to hide. This was a simple act of barbarism.