Orthodox America


 The Cry of the New Martyrs – Women in the Zone 


“From the moment when in camp there unexpectedly came through to me a postcard from Spain – with a view of some castle and an unrecognizable signature – my life changed completely. I became newly aware that the meanness and crude horrors of camp life were but a speck on the earth; stretched out all around was the world, and in this world were people who knew me and wanted to help me. This ended my despair at being afflicted by loneliness” – Julia Voznesenskaya 

      Officially it's called the "women's political zone” It’s located on  the territory of a large, women's criminal camp, separated in such a way that contact between the "criminals'' and "politicals" is virtually impossible.

    The forced occupation is the sewing of work gloves; the norm is set at 66 pairs per day. Five rubles a month are given as an incentive for fulfilling the norm: those who exceed the norm are supposed to receive seven rubles--to be spent at the camp "store" where twice a month prisoners can buy such things as margarine, white bread, tasteless caramel, pens, envelopes, writing paper, etc. Store privileges are revoked for the least offense.

       Food  The food is brought from the criminal zone. breakfast and supper usually consist of gruel made of either barley or oats --often over salted and undercooked; or vermicelli. Vegetable oil substitutes for margarine, the sick get white bread, while others get only black. For dinner--soup with uncleaned fish or bad pork and rotten cabbage. The food is virtually inedible and yet the women are not allowed to fix it themselves, nor to receive packages of dried food.

       Packages     Prisoners are allowed to receive two packages per year, each not to exceed 2 1/2- lbs, and one per year (after completion of one half the prison sentence) not exceeding 11 bs. Contents of these packages are limited by a carefully itemized list which excludes meat, chocolate, vitamins, medicines ....

       Correspondence          Prisoners have the right to receive an unlimited amount of mail and to send out two letters per month. The mail is opened and whatever the censor judges to be harmful or dangerous is crossed out.

         Medical Help Almost none. Nurses give pills either for "stomach" or "head." A call for the doctor may result in a visit three days later—or a week later. Sometimes the doctor will grant sick leave from work, but within two days the nurse signs the prisoner on the work list again--even those who are still very sick. For example, Natasha Lazarevo was sick for a whole month with dysentery and a high fever, but in all this time she was excused from work only five days and was not even examined by the doctor.

       Punishments    There are many: deprivation of store privileges, packages, visits; being placed in SHIZO or PKT. SHIZO--a "penalty isolation cell": a cubicle With a narrow shelf without mattress, for sleeping a bench against the wall too narrow on which to sit; it is cramped, cold (8° C.); all outer clothing is removed; three times a day the prisoner is given a cup of hot water and a piece of dark bread. SHIZO is given for a few days--up to 10; PKT is the same form of punishment given over a longer time period. The PKT regimen is less severe: at night mattresses are given out; reading books is allowed as welt as listening to the radio; the food is the same; outer clothing is not confiscated. PKT is given as punishment for the most serious offenses; for example, for being rude to the authorities. Only the healthy are able to endure such conditions; sick prisoners become invalids..,

    Prisoners are allowed to plant flowers. Last summer, besides flowers, the women of the zone planted vegetables; the entire zone area was turned into a garden. But in August without any explanation the whole garden was pulled up and trampled. The women began to eat grass--like lettuce.

    Legally prisoners have the right to receive letters from abroad, but secret instructions limit letters to those from close relatives. Even so, it took three years before Tatiana Velikanova was able to get a letter from her brother in France.

(This news recently received from Russia; translated from "Russkaya Misl' ", 3/15/84,)

Today there are seven women in this particular zone, among them the Orthodox prisoners Natalya Lazarevo, Tatiana Ossipova and Irina Ratushinskaya.

[Webmaster's Note:  Irinia Ratushinskaya wrote an outstanding book on the life in these camps called "Gray is the Color of Hope" Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1988]


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