V.A. Makogon . The Norillag

V.A. Makogon . The Norillag

Dear Ida Petrovna!

Today, on the 24th of March, I received your letter and thank you for your sincerity. I forwarded a copy of the letter I sent to you to the district administration, as well. Although most of the people do not believe that I am its author, they were generally pleased about the fact that someone wrote about it at all. However, it somehow broke their hearts to read it - for fear. Another letter I sent to the town of Minsk. Ida Petrovna, you called my letter a poem, but maybe you are mistaken. At first the same thought came to my mind, too, but having considered it well again, I now understand that it is no poem at all. It is rather a prayer, written in the typical language of a convict; a prayer dedicated to the male and female prisoners in the forced labour camps, which I accompanied to the other world - then, 35 years ago. Ida Petrovna, I do not see any secrets in my letters.

A little later I will try to describe the cruel events I experienced amidst the nonpolitical prisoners. It is very difficult to write about the criminals. My hands would not even tremble if I had to shoot thirty percent of those belonging to the criminal underworld. I have never been a professional criminal myself, but had to spend thirteen years of my life with them. Our work suited the government perfectly. In our country we now have the perestroika (reorientation; translator's note). The dung beetles are hiding away, but the dunghills, i.e. the majority of the communists, jut out from behind the corner, carefully watching who is going to win - Gorbachev's party or the party of the bureaucrats. Gorbachev - who is he? A doctor, who met the fate of having to treat an infectious, incurable party disease. And Gorbachev fulfills his duty with dignity. Ida Petrovna, do not forget to write to me again.

sgd Makagon

I received the newspaper of the year 1988 you sent to me. I do not remember the exact issue, but there was an article about the construction of a geological complex in the Norilsk city district of Kupets. I would like to know, whether the workers there are going to count up the number of men's and women's skulls that were buried there, in other words of all those, who were shot dead in that place after Stalin's death; just to let the builders know that they are going to lay the foundations on the bones of enemies of the people. In the newspaper "Izvestiya" dated September 9th, 1988, there is an article in memory of the prisoners of the Norillag (Norilsk forced labour camp; translator's note). I would like to know, where they are going to raise a memorial.

sgd Makagon


I sent a copy of this letter to the editors of the "Krasnoyarskiy rabochiy", who are in charge of the construction matters.

I do not know the address of the All-Russian broadcasting station. They asked the people to inform them, in case they could give any more precise details on the burial places of Norilsk camp prisoners. I am only aware of the district of Kupets. There were lots of empty excavations. There also stood a hogpen and two barracks, in which they shot people by a firing squad. For these actions little holes had been cut out of the roofs. For two days they led prisoners to Kupets under escort, and on the third day they chased women to that place. I carefully looked into their eyes. And they glanced at me with a grim face. I was not aware of the fact that I was to accompany them to the next world. With bloodstained fingers they wrote words of farewell to the walls. Most of them were Latvians. A few days later we had to pull the barracks down.

sgd V.A. Makagon


I sent a copy of this letter to the editors of the "Isvestiya".

In 1953 an ordinance was issued about an amnesty. I, Makagon, was in Norilsk, in the 17th forced labour camp sector, in a copper smeltery. The amnesty missed me. At that time a strike broke out in the political camps; thecamp administration notified us of these incidenty, to be more precise - the free employees, the wards, gave us these information. During a walk within the compound I picked up a piece of paper that lay on the ground. When I turned it round and read through the text, I realized that it was a leaflet type-written by political prisoners. They were asking us, the nonpolitical prisoners, whether we would be prepared to support the strikers. I understood very well what I was supposed to do and went back to the barracks. I approached my comrades and showed them the leaflet. They ran their eyes over the text, returned the note to me and kept standing in silence. I walked on, showed it to the other men, but nobody uttered a single word. A couple of hours later a guy not known to me approached me. He was about five years older than I. He asked me, if I was in possession of a leaflet; I answered his question in the affirmative. He said that I should quickly destroy it: elsewise they would wipe me out together with this piece of paper. He turned round and went away. I took the note out of my pocket, tore it to little pieces and threw them away. In this very moment I felt a certain anxiety, but it quickly blew over. The strikers demanded from the government to reexamine their cases and to send Voroshilov from Moscow. They were showing an iron discipline.

Without listening to the demands of the prisoners the represenatives of the camp authorities gave the command to form up in groups of five. The gate was opened, the first group passed through and was immediately shot by a firing squad, several groups altogether. Thus, they started with the execution of political prisoners. They opened the gate a few times a day, shot a couple of groups of five prisoners before the eyes of their comrades and closed the gate again. During this period of time my friends from the camp went to Kupets under special escort. In Kupets their was a subbranch of the Norilsk camp - two barracks and a hogpen. My friends called me to come to Kupets to take care of the sows, but I refused. I felt quite depressed at that time, like a dusty sack. The professional criminals were released. My friends also were in low spirits, their love for the sows was dead. It was rumoured that Kruglov had come to Norilsk. Our barracks were just beside the forbidden zone, the weather was horrible. I was standing on the road and noticed in the distance a group of men passing by the guardroom. It was four o'clock. The group approached from the direction of the town. The path went close by the forbidden zone. Having walked on for a couple of meters the men called their attention to me, and the nearer they came, the more distinct I could distinguish their faces and eyes. The whole group consisted of at least one hundred men and, as if I had been damned to eternity, they were all looking at me. They walked at a brisk pace.

They were unconceivably many. When they looked daggers at me, it broke my heart to see that. Thus, they passed by, without turning away their piercing glance from me. But then the state of the road forced them to let me out of their sight. Only then I started looking at the escort. I am not going to describe these dog-catchers. I understood that this was not the way they used to chase away people that were supposed to stay alive. When I turned my head, I did not see a single living soul on the road anymore. But there were five-thousand people within the compound. Since I was unable to find a suitable person to talk to, I dragged myself to the barracks and told the men there that a large group of prisoners had been chased over to Kupets. Enemies of the people. Some told me that they were possibly driven to Lakel, and then the conversation was finished. The following day, at the same time, some unfathomable feeling caused me to go out on the road again. And once again they were chasing along an enormous number of prisoners, with the same guards - just as it had happened the day before. But this time I did not tremble with horror that much. And I had the impression that all these people were somehow crestfallen. I returned to the barracks and told the boys that they had once again driven a large group of prisoners down to Kupets. In order to be able to also describe the third day of my observings I cannot refrain myself from spitting at this dirty Bolshevik party. But since I am quite weak and not in a good physical health, my spit might stick on the piece of paper. I do not know, which kind of germ seized me on the third day.

Anyhow, I stood there on the road, in the same place, at exactly the same time again. And, in fact, another group of prisoners was driven to my direction.

But this time they were no male but female prisoners. I looked at them; they did not take any notice of me. They walked on quietly and did not see me at all; but I wanted them to look at me. I was twenty-two years old then. We were only a couple of steps away from eachother, when the whole formation of women, as if by command, took a fleeting glance at me, then abruptly turned away with the same energy by slightly bowing their heads. They marched on. But I continued to stare at them trying to figure out, why they had looked at me so sharply, though even for a very short moment, without wasting even the split of a second to direct my attention to them. On one's way through life, one will never meet such a glance. In terms of figures this group of female prisoners was smaller than those I had previously seen, and there were also less soldiers escorting them. I made my own conjectures and talked myself into believing that the women were chased to Kupets, in order to clear away the dead bodies. This time, too, I did not notice a single living soul on the street. Once again I dragged myself to the barracks and reported my observings to my friends, telling them that women were being chased to Kupets to clear away the corpses

Two days later three of my friends went to Kupets under individual escort. Till the evening I went up and down the compound, then I returned to my barracks. I approached my comrades and said: well, how are things, swineherds? They looked at me venomously, then turned away. One of them turned his head into my direction and replied that people had been executed there. I insisted that they told me more details.

My first question was: where are the corpses? They shook their heads. What have you done there then? They had closely examined the barracks, in which the shootings had been carried out. And the hogpen, the sows? They said that there had not been any pigs at all and that the hogpen had been pulled down and completely cleared away. Brothers, tell me everything you have seen there and what is imprinted in your minds. Holes had been cut into the ceiling, the walls were written all over with blood. Do you at least remember what was written there? We do remember a lot of it. I pointed a finger at one of my friends: tell me everything you know. He smiled and said: ggod-bye, dear Adolf. And I, Mokogon started screaming at them. And those bastards also called Hitler a "dear" before their death. Common laughter. There were not less than 50 people there, and I was right among them. After the laughter had abated, I asked the second one: what can you recall to your mind? He shrug his shoulders and said: there were men, put they pissed like women. I addressed myself to my third comrade; he looked at me and said: I cannot imagine, why they pissed that way. I asked: which nationality did they belong to? And he replied: Letts, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans - many different nationalities. And then I conceived that the best agitators of the strike had been executed. And the third time they had shot the women. All this came to my attention only thirty-five years later. And in those years the kolkhoz bulls did not realize it. The dead bodies are there! I was in Kupets in 1952. There was a great number of empty excavations. And this is how my existence in Kupets came to an end.

My letter is not destined for the living.
I despise the power of the Soviets.
I despise the Bolshevik party.
For having ruined my life.
For having chased me barefooted through Norilsk.
For having secretly executed people.
And they chased us there to clear away the cadavers.
I despise you for being detestable jackals.
You had no pity on gray-haired women.
When you lead them to Norilsk-Kupets to execute them,
I noticed how you were beaming with joy in premonition of the bloody feast.
And how you made all this cruelty a habit.
It did not occur to you at that time that one day life would force you to remember the past.
Daringly they put us behind bars, without fathoming our case.
And the tortures from above were fascist inventions.
So that we would never learn what human kindness actually means.
My letter is not destined for the living,
but for the dead.
At that time they were probably thinking the same way
as I do today.
They drove me to the execution, and then they did not execute me.
The hangman sacrified his rubels, merely because he had started to think about us.
And he took us to a quiet house, where nobody breathed one's last.
Having gone through all the tortures, I stayed alive in this house.
The group of officers, who taught us to appreciate what was practised,
those boots made of leather remnants are imprinted on my mind.
The executioner siad: How many times did I see you - I am unable to count them,
I earned this ten rubel bill with my own blood.
And now I am torturing myself with my thoughts about you.
One should not waste any kopek on you,
and he levelled the muzzle of his gun on us.
We knew that the representatives of the Soviet power were not stupid at all,
and that they did not pay any money for the living.
In those years the government paid an amount of
50 rubels for each cadaver.
The Central Committee distinguished them.
Nevertheless I am most grateful to him
that he did not waste a rifle bullet on me,
that my right arm was saved, when I was put in chains.
In 1953 I was on the run. Norillag.
And for some reason or other I recall all this to my mind.

sgd V.A. Makogon