Just Send Me Word – Orlando Figes. Release Date: 31st May
This latest book by Orlando Figes, professor of History at Birkbeck College, looks at the lives of two young Muscovites seperated for 14 years by war and the gulag. In 2007 three large trunks are sent to the Moscow offices of memorial.
The trunks belonged to Lev and Svetlana Mishchenko, who met as students in the 1930’s. They were seperated by the second world war when Lev was called up to defend Russia against the german invasion. Lev was captured and interred in various prisoner of war camps. On his release and repatriation to russia he was denounced as a spy and sent to the Gulag. The trunks contained letters and documents that the couple wrote to each other during their 14 years of seperation.
What makes the letters from Lev so important is that they were not censored by the Russian authorities and so form, in the the authors words, “the only major real time record of daily life in the Gulag that has ever come to light”. Figes manages to weave history and personal triumph throughout his narrative and the book can be an uncomfortable read at times. Ultimately, though, this is a gripping story of the lives of two people who, against all the odds, keep their devotion alive.