Sunday, August 4, 2019

Female Face of the GULAG Must Never Be Forgotten and Once Seen Can’t Be, Mirovich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 1 – The image of the GULAG is gradually being effaced as the Putin regime celebrates Stalinism and generations with direct contact with Stalin’s victims pass from the scene.  But even when there was more attention to that horrific system, almost all of it was devoted to the men incarcerated in the Stalin’s camps.

            In the West, there is Paul Gregory’s book, The Women of the GULAG (2013), and Marianna Yarovskaya’s short film with the same title (2017), among others. But in Russia, the 20 percent of GULAG inmates who were women and who suffered not only the horrors inflicted on the men but also the special ones inflicted on women are increasingly being forgotten.

              That makes a new blog post by commentator Maksim Mirovich about the life, memoirs, and drawings of Yeforsiniya Kersnovskaya (1908-1994), who described her life in the GULAG not only in words but in remarkable drawings, testimony that was published in six volumes in 2001-2002 (

                Kersnovskaya was born in Odessa to a family of intellectuals who fled to Bessarabia when the Bolsheviks captured that city.  Unfortunately for her, the Soviets eventually occupied her new home and she was dispatched to the GULAG where she suffered all the horrors of life in that Soviet institution. Her words are powerful but her drawings bring that world back into focus.

            Mirovich to his credit not only tells the story of this remarkable and courageous woman who was never afraid to speak the truth even in the face of official violence and repression but provides quotations from here work and most important of all a selection of the pictures of the lives of the women of the GULAG.

            Kersnovskaya’s fate in the 1940s and 1950s was that of a victim of Red totalitarianism, the blogger says, a system which “decided to destroy the individual only for ‘unsuitable origins’ exactly as in another country another similar tyrant destroyed people for ‘an unsuitable nationality.’” 

            But after being rehabilitated and even celebrated in Moldova, her fate today, Mirovich continues, is that of someone whom the authorities are seeking to wipe out “of all textbooks and official historiography” because her words and pictures give the lie to those who celebrate Stalin and promise to do everything he did “all over again.”

            “Personally, I consider that the picutres and fate of Yefronsiniya Kersnovskaya should be studied in all schools of the former USSR so as not to allow a repetition of all these horrors.” Germany has done that to prevent a resurgence of Nazism, but Russia hasn’t and thus faces a resurgence of Stalinism.

            “The former Stalinist camps are now grown over in weeds. They don’t interest anyone and aren’t needed in a country which has declared Stalinist ‘bindings’ its chief achievement, Mirovich says. 

            The author of these lines can only appeal to his readers to go to Mirovich’s blog and look at the pictures. Even if you can’t read Russian, the pictures Kersnovskaya has left us, tell much of the story.  And they should make us all ashamed that there is no translation of her memoirs into English. 

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