March 01, 2022

Twenty Years in a Siberian Gulag


Twenty Years in a Siberian Gulag
The Big House, home of the Leningrad secret police, in the late 1950s.

Leonid Bolotov graduated from Saratov State University in 1928, majoring in engineering; he then studied chemistry in Moscow before accepting a position as an engineer at the Red Triangle Factory in Leningrad. During Stalin’s purge of 1937, Leonid, along with 86 other engineers from his factory, were arrested and banished to Siberia.

Translator Irina Yevgenievna Barclay is Bolotov’s granddaughter.

On that pivotal white night, the six of us were all soundly asleep to the radio playing soft strains of Tchaikovsky’s in the background to drown out street and tram traffic. Suddenly, someone pounded on our apartment’s outer door. And screamed. I looked at the wall clock. 2:00 a.m. I grabbed my Boston suit pants, yanked them up, slipped on my suit-coat, and rushed to open both doors before their banging and shouting awoke my wife and kids. I swung the inner door into the narrow entryway and pushed the outer door into the hall that always reeked of cigarette butts and beer. Stalin needs to build Teen Centers for the kids instead of labor camps for innocents.


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