Like many of their generation who had suffered in similar ways, Lev and Sveta managed to separate their outward acceptance of the Communist ideology from their personal commitment to justice and their loyalty towards other political victims. As Figes writes, “It was a dual world of belief and doubt.” There was also, thankfully, a happy ending: the couple were at last able to marry, aged 38, and raise a son and daughter. They remained devoted to each other until separated by the death of Lev in 2008, aged 91, the year Figes met them both.
The author includes a fascinating map of the wood-combine at Pechora, with its workshops, its bakery, stables, canteen, barracks, infirmary and bathhouse. Despite the misery a kind of normalcy was maintained, sometimes degraded by acts of violence or petty spite, at other times warmed by random acts of generosity and kindness.
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