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

The first rule for survival

The first rule for survival… You must not dramatise your suffering because that weakens you. To stand up to suffering we need all our energy. In practice, we managed this by not letting any of the others complain. When someone moaned or expressed dissatisfaction or sadness, “Tell us about your job!” Everyone can talk about their job. During those ten years I learnt about so many jobs… turkey farming, bee keeping, mining, bookbinding and the like. We did not let anyone complain. In practice, we tried to arrange things by games… Another thing, in 1953, one of my fellow prisoners was the Director General of the Moscow Statistical Office. I learnt from him that there are three sorts of Soviet citizens: those who have been in prison, those who are in prison, and those who will be in prison. It was the head of the Moscow Statistical Office who told me that. We interpreted it this way, “Good Lord! Out of three and a half million prisoners, there will be hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands who will survive. I’m no worse than them; I’ll survive too.” So that will to survive, we passed it on to each other. We took care of each other. That meant a lot.