One of the most difficult historical themes for reflection is the Stalin’s purges and their consequences. 18 million of people were convicted and directed to GULAG (the system of Soviet labour prisons and camps), including about 5 millions of political prisoners and about 1 million of people who were executed. Even now Stalin’s purges are very little spoken about. Ill-considered past will live in our children.
In the project OVER-COMING I reconstruct the present and take a step towards consideration of the issue. I refer to historical documents - letters of the former prisoner; to modern glossy magazines - in search of visual traces of internal lack of freedom; as well as to the family archive - photos of my children.
Photos of children are covered with a translucent fabric that makes them difficult to view - just as the ill-considered past makes it difficult for young people to develop in the spirit of personal freedom.
A step, another step…
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
My great-grandfather, Debolsky Diodor Dmitrievich (1892-1963), served his second political term from 1949 to 1955 in Dubravlag labour camp (Mordovia). He was rehabilitated in 1956. Afterwards, he held correspondence with some of his campmates. Their letters to my great-grandfather were preserved thanks to Nina Sergeevna Debolskaya, the niece, friend and secretary of Diodor Dmitrievich.
One of the correspondents, V.S. Sushchinsky, wrote 19 letters to Diodor Dmitrievich. In 8 of them he writes about rehabilitation: he asks to whom he should write about it; he tries to understand whether he needs it; he congratulates my great-grandfather on his rehabilitation; he admits that he has already been refused once; he writes about the negative attitude towards him in his family; he justifies his own inaction and still hopes in the depths of the soul.
He still wrote a second application for his rehabilitation, but did not live to see the answer.
May 19, 1956
It's always a pleasure to write to you!
On May 5-6, you were going to make efforts about reviewing the case, and I was advised of the same. Thanks for the advice. I'll still wait and think everything over. In my personal life, I do not feel any administrative restrictions as yet. I am like Kipling’s cat, "all by myself, walk where I want and as I want."
The camp group living soldered us so much - people of different ages, different faiths and nationalities – it really brought us together so it will be nice to know how and where people managed to build their lives.
July 15, 1956
How are you doing with rehabilitation? How do you stomach overcoming of the personality cult? "Over-coming" - an honor is given to a very old and very significant word. Perfectly good. It sins a little against the classic "De mortuis aut bene aut nihil".
May 20, 1958
Dear Diodor Dmitrievich!
In honor to your 66th birthday and your rehabilitation let the Tusch be played!
… Let the music play the victory loudly.
We have won and the enemy run away.
We’ll sing loudly Hurray-Hurray-Hurray to Debo-Debo-Debolsky.
(words from Russian Tsar’s army hymn with some small changes)
May 20, 1958
Oh, I am so happy for you - for what you told me in your mind blowing letter. Finally - finally! .. Congratulations!!!
... After consulting with someone here, I will also try to write again; once you so ordered, it must be done. If on my return home I did not have the right to live at home, but was wandering somewhere, if the attitude of those around me was changed to the worst for me, I would have already written three times, and so far I have abstained. Now it seems to me that the best Bylaw of the Supreme Court Tribunal will not change my situation for the better. But - I'll write, I'll write!
I'll write say in a month, and by the time it will be my birthday for the 74th time, I'll get an answer.
November 03, 1958
I have not written about rehabilitation yet, I haven’t bestired myself yet. I think I should write to the prosecutor of the Ukrainian Republic; he is closer; I will ask for a personal interview, which would replace the court; not much could be written in the application.
What do you think? What's better?
However, it is not good for me to burden you with reflections on other people's affairs.
In addition, you probably feel that denial of rehabilitation will undoubtedly upset me more than those "honors," which, in case of success are given to rehabilitated persons, will make me happy. (I have expressed myself clumsily. I repeat: rejection will upset me more than honors will make me happy)
Seriously? - What do I need ?! I do not see any restrictions in the place of residence, I am not deprived of the right to vote, I work so far, because I do not have much time to live ...
January 08, 1959
My life is a blind alley. I have written about my rehabilitation after all. But I have written to our Ukrainian Prosecutor, and he handed over my application even to a lower level - to the regional prosecutor. I was notified about this, - and I'm waiting for the result. Shushkevich wrote about some new provisions of the Criminal Code, said to be softer.