European Memories

of the Gulag

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Exile in Siberia, forced labour in Magadan

The special value of Eela Lõhmus’s life story lies in her two-fold experience of the Stalinist purges: first some months in exile in Siberia as a “special resettler”, before being tried and sentenced to forced labour for counter-revolutionary activities. She has kept photographs of these years of deportation and camp life, which show the Siberian landscape and the work in Kolyma. In the Siberian village in 1950 can be seen her mother, particularly affected by this new way of life, and the housing, zemlyanki, half-buried temporary shelters common in the Soviet forests during those days of shortages.

In Magadan, Eela and her fellow deportees, like many prisoners in 1952, had the restricted but real opportunity of taking photographs of each other. The pictures of Eela reflect the world of women’s imprisonment and the harshness of the work the young women did. But they also evoke the strong ties of friendship and solidarity that were formed among the women prisoners.