Anne Applebaum

Miraculous Survival

Man Is Wolf to Man: Surviving Stalin's Gulag

By

Simon & Schuster 332pp £16. 99 order from our bookshop

In the year or so that I have been working on a history of Stalin’s concentration camps, I have cried three times. Once when I read Eugenia Ginsberg’s account of the months she spent working in the children’s section of a camp, where the barbed wire, gates and guards formed a terrible contrast with the smell of ‘milk soup and wet diapers’. Another time I was so upset by the tale of a woman who was sent to Siberia in the tsarist era that I couldn’t work any more that day.

The third time was on reading Janusz Bardach’s account of his experience as an unwilling ponyatoy, a civilian witness who accompanied the NKVD – predecessors of the KGB – on their midnight rampage through his town in what had been Poland but had become, after the Soviet invasion of 1939, Western Ukraine. Bardach’s experience occurred in December, a few months after the Red Army had occupied the town, on one of the many nights when the NKVD were carrying out mass deportations. Picked up by a group of officers while opening the door to his flat, he was forced to witness a raid which included rape, murder, and the arrest of his friends and acquaintances.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Half-way through The Conquest of Water I felt as if I had been subjected to the literary equivalent of excessive c… ,
    • 'Volume five, then, but still no end in sight. Sandbrook is clearly enjoying himself so much he can’t bear the seri… ,
    • 'By the end of the book something so weighty, stylish and impressive has been built up that one feels far nearer to… ,
    • 'Her ensuing psychotic episode is described so convincingly ... that the reader will wonder if Dobrakovová did not… ,
    • 'The perspectives complement and contest one another, amounting to a glorious, atmospheric set of ventriloquisms.'… ,
    • RT : I reviewed The Testaments for . I will not be taking any questions at this time. ,
    • 'The Testaments is, first and foremost, a manual of resistance ... a type of resistance that is organised, articula… ,