An unexpectedly uplifting account of women’s suffering and resilience in Stalin’s forced-labor camps, diligently transcribed in the kitchens and living rooms of nine survivors.
The pain inflicted by the gulags has cast a long shadow over Soviet-era history. Zgustova’s collection of interviews with former female prisoners not only chronicles the hardships of the camps, but also serves as testament to the power of beauty in the face of adversity.
Where one would expect to find only hopelessness and despair, Zgustova has unearthed tales of love, art, and friendship that endured and even flourished in times of tragedy. These stories, collected in the vein of Svetlana Alexievich’s Nobel Prize-winning oral histories, turn one of the darkest periods of the Soviet era into a song of human perseverance, in a way that reads as an intimate family history.