In Yekaterinburg, I spent an evening with the guys behind the Tesnota webzine walking around the Uralmash (Уралмаш) area of the city, a Post-constructivist residential area specially built for the workers of the nearby factory with the same name during the 1930s, and these days an appealingly run-down area of the city, with bums drinking vodka near the metro station and dogs running around the courtyards. They also took a few photos with an old Soviet camera named ‘Vigilant’. The result is a fierce-looking interview in Russian – nad I allowed myself to present an English translation here. Enjoy.
I often thought that all contemporary witnesses I met during my trip should have their story recorded, in their own words and their own voice, and that these stories should be available in some kind of database (akin to the Shoah Foundation); both for scholars and as a memorial to what happened to men and women in camps, in war and peace and after their return. I was delighted to find out that Russian filmmaker Marianna Yarovskaya and American academic Dr. Paul Gregory are doing exactly this: conducting as many interviews as possible with women who survived the Gulag camps, before the voices of these witnesses vanish forever.
The two are currently seeking founding over on Indiegogo, and you should definitively contribute to this amazing project, with funding going towards both a feature documentary about the women and an upcoming book by Paul Gregory. Did I mention that you should pledge over on Indiegogo? Do it now!
Marianna kindly answered a few questions regarding the project.
Yekaterinburg has a pothole problem, made worse by the empty promises of local politicians to fix it. Local blog Ura.ru and the Voskhod ad agency came up with a nifty solution:
‘We associated road holes with the images of certain politicians. In the night, on three potholes in city center, we drew faces of the governor, the mayor and the vice-mayor. The news about caricatures became a sensation. With this intense PR the politicians were no longer able to sit idle. The holes were fixed.’
A short update: I’m still sighting notes and pictures and books I bought on the road, and the daily grind welcomed me with open arms once I was back in Berlin…But I managed a few things in the meantime. The most important one is (for the moment) the interactive map (see above), which allows you to follow my trip chronologically and location-related. You will find it also under ‘Route‘.
There are also a few new articles and interviews abut my trip (in German): one on poland.pl, and the other to the local newspaper from the town where my grandmother comes from, Solingen. They did manage to get a few things wrong, most important the fact that I did not travel to Siberia and they misspelled Cilly’s last name…
More to come.
Ein kurzes Update: ich war nicht faul und habe angefangen meine Aufzeichnungen und Fotos durchzuschauen, aber auch der tägliche Trott hat mich mich offenen Armen empfangen. Ein paar Sachen habe ich aber auch hier im Blog ändern können. Das Wichtigste (im Moment) ist die interaktive Karte (siehe oben), die es Euch erlaubt meine Berichte von unterwegs chronologisch und ortsbezogen zu lesen. Findet man jetzt auch unter “Route“.
Ausserdem gibt es ein paar neue Interviews und Artikel: einen auf Polen.pl, und ein Interview mit dem Solinger Tageblatt, der Lokalzeitung des Ortes an dem meine Grossmutter lange Zeit gelebt hat. Die haben aber so manchen Fakt durcheinander gebracht. Ich war weder in Sibirien noch heisst Cilly Barabesch mit Nachnamen…
I’m back in Berlin, where it’s as hot and muggy as in Warsaw and Moscow these last weeks. I haven’t started going through my notes and sighting all the pieces of paper and museum leaflets and books I purchased on the road yet – doing my laundry had priority. But one thing is for sure: there’s still more to come. I still have to publish a few more interviews, and there are so many interesting things I bookmarked from both Poland and Russia that I’m going to share in the next days/weeks – so please stay with me.
Ich bin wieder in Berlin angekommen, wo es genauso heiss und stickig ist wie in Warschau und Moskau in den letzten Wochen. Ich habe noch nicht damit begonnen, meine Aufzeichnungen durchzuschauen oder all die Flyer, Bücher und Notizen zu sichten die ich unterwegs aufgesammelt habe – meine schmutzige Wäsche hatte Priorität. Aber eines ist sicher: fertig bin ich noch lange nicht. Es stehen noch Interviews aus; und viele interessante Websites und Artikel aus Polen und Russland, die ich zur späteren Veröffentlichung gespeichert hatte, sitzen noch ungelesen in meinen Lesenzeichen. All das kommt in den nächsten Tagen und Wochen – bleibt mir also gewogen!
Today, I finally managed to visit two of the places my grandmother spent time here in the Urals, a small village named named Kosulino (Косулино), where she worked for three years, 1946 – 1949, and a small industrial town named Revda (Ревда́), which was the location of last camp she worked in before returning to Germany in 1950. Sadly, there are no remains of any of the camps from this time. A gruesome reminder of how diligently Stalin and his henchmen had tried to erase all traces of the many GULAGs around Yekaterinburg was the memorial to the victims of his terror we passed on the way. It is located on the spot where a mass grave with 18,000 of his victims was discovered in the early Nineties.
On a more cheerful note, thanks to local guide Luba Suslyakowa (if you ever come to Yekaterinburg and the Urals you should book one of her tours) and her friend Sergey who drove us around, I was also able to do a very touristy thing and stand with one leg in Europe and one in Asia, as is the local custom at the Europe/Asia-bordermarker. I did not have champagne though.
Heute habe ich es endlich an Zwei der Orte geschafft, an denen meine Grossmutter hier im Ural untergebracht war. Es handelt sich dabei um das Dorf Kosulino (Косулино), wo sie für drei Jahre, 1946 – 1949, gearbeitet hat, und die Kleinstadt Rewda (Ревда́), wo sie das letzte Jahr vor ihrer Rückkehr nach Deutschland 1950 verbracht hat. Leider gibt es dort keinerlei Überreste der Arbeitslager mehr. Wie gründlich Stalin und seine Schergen auch die Erinnerungen an die Opfer und die GULAGs vernichten wollten, davon zeugt das nahebei liegende Denkmal für die Opfer seiner Terrorherrschaft – errichtet über einem Massengrab mit 18 000 Opfern aus den 30er Jahren, welches erst Anfang der Neunziger entdeckt wurde.
Etwas positiver war dann mein durch und durch touristischer Besuch am der Grenze zwischen Europa und Asien, die nahe Jekaterinburg verläuft. Und zwar dank meiner beiden Helfer, Reiseführerin Luba Suslyakowa (deren Touren man bei einem Besuch in Jekaterinburg und dem Ural auf jeden Fall buchen sollte) und ihrem Freund Sergey, unserem Fahrer. Champagner habe ich dort aber nicht getrunken.
Alexey Subbotin is a writer and finance expert hailing from a small district centre in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia. He lived abroad quite extensively both for work and travel experiences and called places like London and Barcelona his home, and has relocated to Moscow a few years ago – where he also wrote his first book. It’s an English-language e-novella entitled ‘A Few Hours In The Life Of A Young Man‘, which you should definitively give a try: it’s a stream of consciousness-esque, one-day-long journey through modern-day Moscow, with a lot of insight into the minds of Russian people today. ‘God may love us, but the people can’t stand each other!’, the protagonist proclaims at one point. The book also comes with many information and footnotes about Russian customs and quirks, and can serve as a social guidebook for outsiders.
As Alexey is a declared fan of Guinness, we met in a Moscow pub last week, fittingly called ‘Temple Bar’, to test the black stuff in the Russian capital and talked about Russia, the internet and writing in general.
In Yekaterinburg, I thought I’d finally die of the heat. Stepping from the nicely air-conditioned train that I’d spent the previous 30 hours on, it felt like walking into a vapour-bath. Humid, muggy, 36 degrees Celcius. Thankfully the metro here is air-conditioned as well, and I found my hotel quite easily. It is shaped in the form of hammer and sickle, and was originally planned as the local office of the NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB, before turned into a hotel in the 1960s.