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Kalyna Language Press

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  • A letter from the Gulag

    When I was a child, Steve Komarnyckyj writes, we would occasionallly receive letters from my grandmother and aunt who lived in Vorkuta. I did not know then that they had spent years in a labour camp or that their sentence had been commuted to internal exile. Krushchev, in between banging his shoe at the United Nations, felt guilty about Stalinism. He did not dismantle the system, but the lot of political prisoners became easier. The camp where my grandmother and aunt were, Vorkuta, was he hub of the Gulag. Its location in the tundra allowed the soviets to kill vast numbers of people by overwork, privation and exposure. My aunt told me that entire labour brigades simply vanished in the tundra. When I read the passage below in Episodic Memory it awoke the memory of those blue airmail envelopes with the stamps adorned with Lenin and young pioneers. ...

    A Letter from the Gulag

    ... Grandma Hanna, waited for letters from there, looking out of the kitchen doorway onto the dusty Devladove path in summer. That was the way the postman, Mr. Dohay, would come, vigorously driving the two-year old colt, harnessed to the two-wheeled wagon, which we always called a Byedka in our village. The postman usually flew past Grandma’s fixed stare, but just once a month he would rein in his black colt by the door and Grandma would dab her dry lips with her apron and say, ‘Run and fetch Dunya’s letter. I don’t want to say hello to that wretch …’ I would dart towards the Byedka, by then I was as tall as the height of its wheels, and Dohay would silently give me the letter with all those round and triangular postmarks and, flourishing his whip, he would steer the horse back to the road.

    Continue reading here. And check out the book on amazon.com or on the amazon site wherever you are. If you buy a copy before 31 December you can win a free book of poetry

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