Solidarité Ukraine
INED Éditions. Sound Archives, European Memories of the Gulag

Life in the orphanage

…they issued a permit for me to be brought back home

At Bulun, we had no electricity. Six months night, total, polar. There was one month of continuous day, June. At night, white bears prowled around the house, scavenging… Instead of panes in the windows they put in sheets of ice, because glass could not stand a cold of -60°C. We got water by melting snow, we brought river ice back to the children’s home. If they needed to run a bath or anything, they brought lumps of ice. Once a month they ran a bath… In summer we had to fetch fuel. Nothing grew out there, nothing except little bushes, there were no trees. They floated logs down river from the Yakutsk region. The biggest boys in the home pulled them out of the river, sawed them up on the bank and we carried them up the hill to have a few reserves for the winter. There was no electricity, we had oil lamps. We used to go to school, but when a blizzard blew up, we couldn’t set foot outside. They sometimes rigged up ropes from the home to the school. You’d go outside and things seemed to be all right, but suddenly you couldn’t see where to go. By holding onto the ropes, either we got to school or we went back home.