"Shining a Light Into Dark Places"

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408

Ted Baker left a thoughtful comment on my post Things I Would Rather Not Know. But I Do 

I did not want to stir the pot again. I long for something funny and entertaining, and here I am, stuck with dark memories, trying to make sense of senseless things. Without understanding how they, prisoners of the glorious regime, felt, the stories do not make much sense. We can understand the harshness of nature and can understand what people endure being lost. You are against the odds, and it is amazing what people are capable of. But millions and millions of people vanishing in the country without a war, or famine... nothing. And it is not a nationalistic genocide. Those vanishing were Russians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and 130 more nationalities. Repressions against Jews, Crimea Tatars, Chechen, Greek were just special affects, just line items in this huge parade of terror and oppression. This is very difficult to make any sense of.

At one timeI thought that whatever happened was considered normal by the rulers (and I know that for the nation it was normal), but I was wrong. As in this story, when the workers moved ahead 4-5 kilometers, the bulldozers were sent to make sure there was no trace of those dead. So, they were thinking of "cleaning" behind them. There was an order. This means that they at the very top knew they were cold blooded killers and they were hiding the evidence. They knew there was nobody to oppose them in the country. Did they do it to fool the West and the US? Or their own population, who were fed the propaganda and never really knew what was going on in the Extreme North and in Siberia?

Nobody still knows much about the camps. There is no reliable data on number of prisoners and there are no indirect indicators: food supplies, medical supplies, clothes supplies, cleaning supplies, even the number of guards, nothing that you can use to figure the number or prisoners.

I did not even touch on the other issue, which is mind boggling.

Imagine the black car comes in the early morning hours (that's how they liked it). They knock on the door, arrest the man and take him away. The family then rushes to the authorities, trying to find the beloved, and it is all in vain. "Your husband was indicted as charged and is imprisoned without the right of communication". That meant that he disappeared in the vast Russian northern or Siberian wasteland and the family will never find out where he was taken, and what happened to him. They would never know whether he died, how he died, and there would be no grave, no letter, nothing. They were taken from homes and they vanished without a trace... Often times, after they took men, they would come and arrest women and children as "Family Members of Enemies of People". Same Chapter 58 of Penal Code, just different paragraph. Carried automatic 10 years of hard labor, and children were taken away. Forever.

We do not know what they were thinking, what they hoped for. They were facing a huge and terrible world of hard labor, and conditions that Roman slaves did not have. They were not people, they were numbers. Meaningless replaceable numbers. And on the wooden stick that they post instead of a cross on the grave they marked not the name (was not allowed) but something like A22, which only meant that this was somebody with the last name starting with A, and that was the 22nd time they started the alphabet. No chance to ever know who that was. Just bones.

So, how could you do that to so many people? Remember, it is on bones? The answer is: Fear. We do not understand the true meaning of this word. It is not just the fear of the moment, or situation. It is a total fear. 365/24/7. It is the fear of your neighbor, who will report you, if you said something which could even remotely be considered as not being happy with any authorities. (what if you were testing him, and he did not report?). The fear of tomorrow to the point that you do not want tomorrow to happen. The fear of the car in the middle of the night, when you sweat profusely if it slows down or stops at your door...

So, there are rulers, and there are other people. The rulers enjoy life and the people live in fear? No. The rulers live in the same fear. they just know that better. Do you know that practically every member of the Stalin's ruling circle had some family member in prison? That the Speaker of the Parliament (or whatever served as such) Mikhail Kalinin had his Jewish wife in the GULAG camp and was begging Stalin to let her out?

Stalin's surrounding was involved in this oppressive machine the same way as everyone else, they feared for their lives and for the lives of their family members. They were executioners because saying (or even thinking) "no" would put a bullet in their brain. But not so fast. First they would be destroyed morally, mentally, and physically.

So many of them were war heroes, strong men. They looked death in the face, the did not bow to shrapnel. How come they became cowards? Is it because the killing machine started from taking away dignity? They will bring you into the interrogation room and in an hour they would haul out a piece of bloody meat covered with its own excrement and urine. That was terrifying, not the death. That and humiliation. They could not take their own lives because of their families. That would signal that they were guilty. Do you know that the last thing they screamed before being shot was "Viva Stalin!"?

People in the 20th Century lived like ... I can't even find a word. The terrible part is that those who lived through that, were those who kept ... believing in Stalin. They were trying to reach Stalin, as they were convinced that the Great Leader did not know about that, he did not know that his most devoted servants were thrown into that machine called GULAG, which stands simply for Main Administration of the Prison Camps, and became a symbol of oppression. So, people were trying to sent Stalin letters hoping that if they only can get HIM the message, it will all change.

It is easy to think that prisoners were not smart, that they did not understand that this was exactly what HE envisioned for them. In reality there were only two groups who could survive. Those, who kept considering themselves the communists (even though they were all stripped of their Communist party membership), and this was a large group. The tiny group were people who knew exactly that this was the devil's regime, and they had the inner strength to help them get through this. The brightest representative was Solzhenitsyn. You could survive only if you strongly believed.

Very many intelligent people did not believe, and they did not survive. There were very many intelligent people in the GULAG.

The atmosphere, created by fear was surrealistic. When Stalin died on the 5th of March, my mom, as well as the rest of the country, was crying . She was absolutely sure that it will only be worse after HISdeath. You know, how the beaten dog licks the owners hand?

By the way, at the time of HIS death, we were "sitting" on suitcases, my mom, my 9-y.o. brother and me, a 2 year toddler, waiting for the order to board the train to Siberian exile because we were Jews. She did not know that there was an order to Siberian garrisons to stop the trains in the empty vastness of Siberia and shoot every one in the marked trains. Only 20% of Jews were supposed to reach the destination. We were meant to die, and not in the hands of Nazis in Buchenwald, but in 1953. And people destined to die were crying that this bastard suddenly died and did not complete his biggest purge ever...

Russia has never fully condemned the communist ideology. As some current Great Leaders of the world (Iran), there are plenty of people in Russia, who think that Stalin was good for Russia, and he is in the top 10 most popular political leaders of the 20th Century according to Russian media. If I understand it correctly, not far from another strong leader - Adolf Hitler.

Talking about the lessons of history

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Rainmaker
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William J. Archambault, Jr.
The Real Estate Investment Institute - Houston, TX

Jon,

Funny and entertaining are nice, but these two blogs are extremely important! We all need to learn from your experience. Eight years of hateful propaganda have left us as vulnerable as your ancestors.

Please keep telling your story, we must learn from history. Real estate a side your stories may be the most important of AR.

Thank You,

Bill

Nov 20, 2008 10:30 PM #1
Rainer
8,928
Titanium Real Estate
Titanium Real Estate, Ltd. - Naples, FL

Jon:

My hat is off to you my friend.  I am glad you are giving insight to all about what it was like in communist Russia.

Nov 20, 2008 11:16 PM #2
Rainmaker
400,669
Hugh Krone
Weichert Referral Associates - Hamburg, NJ
Realtor, Sussex County NJ

Bless You Jon

Nov 21, 2008 12:20 AM #3
Rainmaker
425,757
Ted Baker
Carmody and Associates LLC - Winter Haven, FL
MidFloridaMediation.com

Jon - even comics leave the funny and entertaining behind to deal with the reality of the world and the vast destructive potential of man's inhumanity to man.

As always, thank you, Jon, for all you do.

 

holocaust

Nov 21, 2008 10:27 AM #4
Rainmaker
592,907
William J. Archambault, Jr.
The Real Estate Investment Institute - Houston, TX

Heavy, very heavy!

Least we forget.

Do you suppose we'll have chips implanted in the next four years, just like our cat and with just as much choice. But, why not people pay extra for cars with On-Star, and phones with GPS.

Bill

Nov 21, 2008 10:51 AM #5
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Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Bill - I am always puzzled that people did allow this to happen. It is against every conceivable notion of being human. How did people transitioned from the slogans and popular tag lines to the fear and terror?

Of course, it did not happen in a blink, but I think it is like with sonic jets. You only hear them when they have passed you.

Socialism could be the same way. We may only start seeing it when it is too late to press the breaks.

Gotta be vigilant.

Thank you for reading and thinking. And encouraging me...

Nov 21, 2008 11:06 AM #6
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Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
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Titanium Real Estate  - I do not have the answers. I am thinking with you. I am not in Russia for 17 years, and there was a time, when I thought that I have succeeded in completely erasing my past. I have practically no Russian friends around me, and I felt very comfortable in America.

I am a bit more aware of Russia now, I follow the news, and I am concerned now as an American about Russia. I am thinking of its past. There was a humorous definition of Russia as "a country with unpredictable past". That was a joke because every new leader coming to power was rewriting history books to reflect his own role in the country's history. We all laughed at Brezhnev's attempt to shine as the war hero and a great strategist. he blocked the publication of Marshall Georgiy Zhukov, a famous army commander, because it did not say a word about Brezhnev. So, after a long delay Zhukov succumbed, and one of the Chapters was about Zhukov coming to Novorossyisk to consult with political colonel Brezhnev.

Hilarious

Nov 21, 2008 11:17 AM #7
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Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
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Hugh -  Thank you.

Nov 21, 2008 02:10 PM #8
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William Johnson
Retired - La Jolla, CA
Retired Real Estate Professional

Hello Jon, I am not going to comment specifically about this but more about the fact that I so appreciate your courage and your experinces that you are sharing. Thankfully you are now a citizen here in a country where those expereinces should never be repeated. Hopefully all that is behind you forever. Wishing you well! Better than actually!

Nov 21, 2008 02:39 PM #9
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Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

William - I am happy to be here. I might never think this way about the past, if not for the fact that I am here and I see things differently from how I saw them before.

It took me 3 years to start understanding the value of an individual vs the good of the society. I am still and always be half way from one system to another, but I sure bear the deepest appreciation of the society, which holds a human for a human. All my life I heard about it, as we usurped the right to be the one and only who cared. Now I see it and experience it in real life.

Thank you for your kind words. This is paradoxical, but I am not sure that I would have anyone in Russia to read this, and I have people reading it here. That's is the key in guaranteeing htat it is not going to happen here. Because people care... I hope we do.

Nov 21, 2008 03:30 PM #10
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Ted Baker
Carmody and Associates LLC - Winter Haven, FL
MidFloridaMediation.com

New photo, Jon ?  That one is not from north of the Arctic Circle

One of the obvious reasons that I enjoy your posts, Jon, (or Simon's) is that you have known other cultures with their own histories.  Not only are you here by choice but you have an understanding of the differences that eludes what I call the "born here, done that" crowd who don't always seem to appreciate what we have here. 

I do not mean to stir dark memories that you might prefer to forget - it is just that I learn so much from you when you share your personal and family recollections.

I am concerned that the liberal/conservative differences will soon descend to rhetoric about the importance of the society rather than the importance of the individual.  I am not sure I am going to like what may happen next.  Some serious and dangerous actions have been taken in support of the "greater good" throughout history.

Thanks again for all you do.

 

 

Nov 23, 2008 07:22 AM #11
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Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

Ted - It should be not simple. It is not only one country that took that step and did not succeed, there were several more, and the result was the same.

To tell you the truth I do not think America wold fall prey to Socialistic idea. America is too advanced, people are too idividualistic for that.

What bothers me, however, is that we tend to see the rest of the world as less lucky us, Americans, thinking that given the same circumstances, they would become mini-America.

Americans have difficult time ccepting that other people and nations may not value democracy, value freedom and may other things that we put at the height of our priorities.

Nov 23, 2008 07:52 AM #12
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