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Gulag Was Bleached But Now It's Back

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Gulag Was Bleached But Now It's Back
IRYNA KHALIP
PHOTO: NASHA NIVA

But the heroes remained as they were.

I've only been reading the Gulag lately. Books with memoirs of survivors, archival documents of the "Immortal Barrack" and "Memorial", preserved letters. I read it because I don't like anything else now. And with each book, each letter, each recorded story, I realize more and more that we are there again.

It turns out that there was a small underground organization of children in Soviet Saratov in the 40s – the Society of Young Revolutionaries. No, it is clear that Lavrenty Beria daily reported to Stalin about underground counter-revolutionary organizations, and the Chekists were trumping up cases at night and beating out unreal confessions. But these kids did have an underground. This is not from the case materials, this is from their already adult memories after the camps.

The leader of the organization was 13-year-old Heliy Pavlov. All the rest – from 11 to 14. Pioneers, formations, "Always prepared!" at school, and at home in the evening – vows, discussions, production of leaflets. Half a century later, his colleague, and at that time also a pioneer fifth-grader Sigismund Schwartz, recalled that they had a charter and a program: "The Program indicated that Stalin committed crimes against Communists and Internationalists, which was a departure from Lenin's principles of leadership of the country. Hence the tasks of the Society of Young Revolutionaries: 1. To suppress crimes and remove Joseph Stalin by any means 2. Democratization in all spheres. Ways to achieve this: 1. Expansion of the organization through active involvement of new members.2. Getting a higher education. 3. Try to take the highest positions in the government (the kids even shared "offices"). " The children wanted to remove Stalin and make the USSR a democratic country. Does that ring any bells?

They wrote leaflets, pasted them in the busiest places of the city and did not run away, but watched. And they approached the readers, entered into a conversation, tried to explain that Stalin should be removed. And also – they threw leaflets into the cars of NKVD officers and left them in front of the apartments of the party staff. Naive desperate children. But they lasted three months. Three months of underground children's struggle, three months of demonstrative behavior, three months of leaflets and secret meetings – for those times, consider it a feat of Hercules. And when the guys were arrested, they still tried to agitate the investigators of the NKVD to join the Society of Young Revolutionaries. The children received sentences from four to six years (fourth-grader Venedikt Yegorov was even released, having counted the time in the pre-trial detention center, because even the NKVD agents did not know what to do with the eleven-year-old, who had barely joined the pioneers) and went to the children's labor colony. But the mother of Heliy Pavlov was sentenced to eight years in camps, the mother of Sigismund Schwartz – to three years. Mothers were imprisoned for not reporting on their children.

Probably, this is our acquired property: when reading about Stalin's repressions, we immediately think about our repressed people and find the most direct connection. It would seem, what can connect the Saratov schoolboy of the 40s Heliy Pavlov and our political prisoners? It is very simple. Heliy's mother was imprisoned for a family relationship. The mother of Volha Takarchuk, the wife of Ihar Losik, the son of Viktar Babaryka, the mother of Maryna Hlazava, the wife of Maksim Siarheenko were imprisoned for the same. Pavel Seviarynets' mother Tatsiana, Tsikhan Klyukach's mother Inna were detained for the same. A member of the family of a traitor to the motherland – something that in times of the "free speech" was read with horror and could not believe; something that those who returned from the camps were silent about, not wanting to cause suffering to children and grandchildren; something that should never have returned, and everyone knew it, that's it. Stinky, risen from hell, swarming with worms, rotting – that's it. Buried with an aspen stake and a lead bullet, covered with a bucket of bleach – that's it. It's back.

But mothers still do not report their children and do not betray them. They follow them to prisons and are proud of their children. And children, whether they are 15 or 50, still resist. By the way, among those Saratov children was the future academician Lev Pitaevsky, co-author of the "Course of Theoretical Physics", which is still taught to young physicists around the world. Can you imagine what a breakthrough in everything – in science, art, politics, state building – thousands of our political prisoners will be able to achieve when they are released? We can feel safe about the future of the country. For the past, too: there were forest brothers, BPPM (Belarusian People's Partisan Movement) and Saratov schoolchildren. But you still have to fight with the present.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org

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