For Uncle Albert
Here's a photo of a pack of cigarettes from the Soviet Union. They're supposed to still be quite common over there - strong, unfiltered and cheap. They're called Belomorkanal. The cover image shows a map of the country with the three canals that Stalin had gulag prisoners work on marked in red.
The projects included: the White Sea Canal, the Moscow Canal and the Volga-Don canal. These projects were built under brutal conditions. The White Sea Canal project was basically a waste of time because it was built in a hurry and therefore too narrow and too shallow. Many people died during its construction - including a brother of my mom's - who just disappeared while there. Nobody grieved his death, his lack of life, because everyone was too busy just trying to stay alive themselves. His name was Albert.
Uncle Albert was the son of a kulak and therefore, an enemy of the people. He lived, worked, and died for Stalin's vision of a canal that never worked. Cheap cigarettes?
Click here for more information and photographs about the building of the White Sea Canal.
I visited the Assiniboine Park Zoo here in Winnipeg last week. The coordinator at the Immigrant Centre where I volunteer had given us passes...