Letters from Stalin's Gulag 1930-37
A book of letters from behind the barbed wire
A father and mother plead to their relatives in Canada: "Remember us. Do not forget us." Their children write: "What will become of us?" Written from their prison barrack behind the barbed wire, their letters travel to a tiny prairie town in Canada. Yet, writing letters to the "West" during Stalin's Reign was a crime. NKVD documents confirm that "contacts abroad" were forbidden. Somehow, a subversive network of mail delivery was found during one of the most horrific eras in human history. Men, women and children were sentenced to Stalin's vast Gulag of over 2000 prison camps. The survival rate was one winter. The plea to "Remember us" describes not only the horror, but also the strength of the human spirit in the bleakest circumstances.
HISTORY LOST AND NOW RETOLD
Remarkably, the world knows little of these catastrophic events. But the letters change this. These are first-hand eye-witness accounts written in the moment; not years later after time has eroded the experience. Their immediate readers (relatives in Canada) will remember. Their children will remember. Now we too can remember what happened. We can honor the victims and commemorate the survivors. The letters confirm the day-to-day experiences of those in the prison camps.
RELIVE THE LIVES, THE TEARS, THE STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE
Author, Ruth Derksen Siemens (a first-generation Canadian of Russian-Mennonite descendent) discovered these letters, she realized that the writers were not faceless, nameless people from the past - they were her blood, her kin, and our social conscious. From the position of an "insider," she guides us with explanations, historical background, photos, maps and statistics. This volume, "Remember Us" includes 131 letters from one family (Jasch and Maria Regehr and their children). It also contains the chronicle of two sisters who survived. Subsequent volumes will include the remaining letters (463 in total).
Remembering makes us human. Remembering shapes our attitudes and makes us more tolerant. If we remember, we can respond.
The letters gathered in this publication (Volume One) have been written by one family: Jasch and Maria Regehr and some of their children. Subsequent volumes will include letters written by other prisoners. These first-person accounts are damning evidence in the human court of justice. We will remember! We will celebrate those who wrote. And we will be changed!