14 November 2022
by Vera Vasilieva
I received a letter from Yury Alekseevich Dmitriev dated 24 October which struck me deeply by the contrast between its contents and the place and circumstances in which it was written. The letter contains a response to my account of the presentation of his second book, Mesto pamyati Sandarmokh [Sandarmokh – Place of Memory] which took place at the Gulag History Museum. “Many thanks both to those who spoke and to those who listened,” he writes. The essence of the letter and its tone are such that I imagined Yury Alekseevich giving a lecture in a large, airy hall on the need to preserve historical memory about the repressions, the Gulag, dekulakisation …
The last thing I wanted to think about was where these lines were written. I believe someday my thoughts will come true and we shall join together at these lectures and a collection (or collections) of lectures by Yury Dmitriev will be published. But for the time being here is a small fragment:
“…Alas, time is inexorable. Fewer and fewer people are left who saw for themselves and experienced the Great Terror, dekulakisation and deCossackisation… And few are left who could talk about the national liberation struggle and about the ‘life’ of people in the postwar GULAG.
“But nature abhors a vacuum, they say. Once again, prisons and camps are being filled with political prisoners. So we shall soon be reading samizdat, tamizdat, etc., again until democratic government is established. And there is a great deal of work yet for us to do to bring that happy state of affairs about. But I have faith that we shall win. The main thing now is to defeat the ***.”
[Yury Alekseevich calls things by their proper names, without, as I do, resorting to ‘asterisks’ and euphemisms that are disgusting, and which, strange to say, the censor allows through. – V.V.]
Translated by Simon Cosgrove