Women in Soviet Prisons

Helena Celmina, Author Paragon House Publishers $0 (238p) ISBN 978-0-913729-04-5
Celmina, a Latvian who now lives in the West, spent the years from 1962 to 1966 in a Soviet prison camp for having foreign magazines in her possession, despite the fact that she was a translator. Her story of those years contains much that is, unfortunately, familiarthe cold, the dreariness, the monotonybut it also offers new insights into the Russian penal system. The people tend to accept the capricious and savage nature of punishment; they are accustomed to arrests for no real crime and (in the Stalinist era) sentences without trial of 25 years' imprisonment, a maximum since reduced to 15. The saddest prisoners are the orphans, who seem doomed to the gulags for the rest of their lives. The regime is particularly harsh on the very religious, especially Jehovah's Witnesses. Celmina tells of the female prisoners she met, from peasants to intellectuals, including a former mistress of Boris Pasternak. She has also provided drawings every bit as stark as her text. January
Reviewed on: 01/01/1985
Release date: 01/01/1985
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