During the course of three decades, Joseph Stalin's Gulag, a vast network of forced labor camps and settlements, held many millions of prisoners. People in every corner of the Soviet Union lived in daily terror of imprisonment and execution.
In researching the surviving threads of memoirs and oral reminiscences of five women victimized by the Gulag, Paul Gregory has stitched together a collection of stories from the female perspective, a view in short supply in the literature. Capturing the fear, paranoia, and unbearable hardship that were hallmarks of Stalin's Great Terror, Gregory relates the stores of these five women--from different social strata and regions--in vivid prose, from their pre-Gulag lives, through their struggles to survive in the repressive atmosphere of the late 1930s and early 1940s, to the difficulties facing the four who survived as the adjusted to life after the Gulag. These firsthand accounts illustrate how even the wrong word could become a crime against the state.
Gregory begins with a synopsis of Stalin's rise to power, the roots of the Gulag, and the scheming and plotting that led to and persisted in one of the bloodiest, most egregious dictatorships of the twentiety century.