Nobel Peace Prize and Memorial

Nobel Peace Prize Certificate from CC Neptuul
Nobel Peace Prize award acceptance
speeches  will be aired on December 10th from Oslo, Norway. One of the three recipients is the International Memorial Society, founded in 1987. Memorial’s aims have been to reveal and showcase the crimes of the Stalin years. While it's now legally banned in Russia, it continues to function in various other countries. 

I try to highlight these abuses in my own humble way through my stories. The Kulak’s Daughter (aka, Red Stone) is a novel focused on the  First Five Year Plan, to liquidate the kulaks. It destroyed my mother’s family farm, killed my grandmother, and toddler uncle. The sequel, Broken Stone, was about how my mom and her siblings managed to dodge a state orphanage, leave the Soviet Union and narrowly avoid the famine, while her dad, my grandfather, was not allowed to leave … how he managed to survive the Holodomor and then disappeared into the behemoth of the Great Terror. 

With the sacrifice of the Soviet Red Army, under Stalin’s ruthless leadership, the Nazis were finally crushed and USSR's reward was the Iron Curtain and the loss of freedom for millions of east Europeans. Stalin’s Red Army turned ordinary men into monsters, many who turned to the bottle to numb any remaining humanity left inside them.  Now in Crow Stone I explore how civilians like my mom were worked to death in inhumane forced labour camps ... again under Stalin.

That these horrific things happened under Stalin’s leadership is not disputed. But that modern Russia continues to deliberately downplay the human rights’ abuses under Stalin shows that Memorial’s mission is far from over.  Instead of healing, there is continued repression and ruthless violence. Holocaust survivors can go to numerous centres throughout Europe and re-imagine the Nazi horror of concentration camps and extermination centres. But an organization like Memorial honouring the memories of my own broken family becomes outlawed in the vary places it happened.  

With Uri, my translator, and the bundle of files
about my family in the Zhytomyr secret police archives
I was fortunate enough to have access to my family members' secret police files in Zhytomyr.  The last entry, was a letter dated August 16, 1989, from the KGB acknowledging that my uncle, Gustav, was indeed politically repressed and executed in 1937.  His brother, my grandfather, had a similar fate but that was waiting for me to discover. 

The fact that Memorial is now considered a foreign agent and banned in modern Russia, under Putin, proves that its truths have power. Putin is afraid of the truth. Long live Memorial. Maybe someday I'll be able to create a memorial to my grandmother out in Yaya, Siberia.  For now, I can only write stories. 

And, forever, I'll be grateful to Don Miller, who introduced me to my mom's home and family. His book, Under Arrest, did for me, what Memorial is doing for human rights worldwide. If I had a voice, I'd be giving Don Miller his own Nobel Prize for Peace.  He has written several books and has a great website where he showcases extensive research.

Don Miller in my mom's home village, Federofka,
with an old woman who remembered my mom's family

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