One fine day, otherwise as fine as any other day, the “head of the family” and his beautiful young wife did not come home: they had been arrested by the home intelligence service.
From the words of a former friend of the peopcom in question, it was concluded that the master of the family secretly hated Stalin as the most heinous monster, only in human flesh. Stalin assumed that the human love for him must grow proportionately to Stalin’s benefits for a given peopcom: those to whom Stalin did something good must reciprocate accordingly.
Stalin could have subjected the peopcom to some special, super-inhumane torture, but his rage was so unbridled that he had him shot immediately.
The “criminal’s” wife was also shot as a matter of routine. Their daughter was brought to our “apartment.” She knew nothing about the destiny of her parents. She came into our room and woke me up. “My parents have been arrested,” she said. “But they are innocent,” she added firmly.
Such is my personal memory of my life in Stalin’s Russia, which seems to have been improving in the past more than half a century after he died in 1953.
“My God!” In 1972, our family as well as a few other families, were allowed to emigrate to the West. Soviet authorities gave no explanation of why they were allowing people like myself to leave the country, which even after Stalin’s death was described much like a paradise-on-earth.
Neither I nor my wife nor our son, now a sensitive writer and an audacious journalist, know anyone who emigrated at the same time and who in the West would have been asked to describe their personal experiences of what it was like living in the Stalinist country.
Every week I write my column in English, and this is the first one devoted entirely to our personal experiences of living in Russia, since the experience of Russia is the experience of those living in countries destructive to their freedom or preventing its appearance.
There is nothing typically Russian about Russia between the autumn of 1917 and today.
My experience is of a country in which some absolute egocentric like Stalin pretended that he was a total altruist who had selfless love for his country and promised to convert it into a symbol of mutual selfless love for its inhabitants — and no, not for an emperor or a king or a tsar or a fuhrer (“leader” in German), but for Comrade Stalin.
Everybody knows how hard it is to make even a modest living. It probably is easier for an ignorant savage like Stalin to assure the world, not without the help of all available media, of how fertile even if altruistic is his love for the people of the country.
Well, in Russia some might not have liked some of Stalin’s most despicable undertakings he was hatching like, for example, the extermination of Jews. But luckily, he died before his plan had been realized. But had he not died and carried it out, the country would have become another Nazi Germany, doomed to perish.
As it was, he became the “savior of mankind,” including Jews. Our communal apartment neighbor, a doctor, a Jew, would carry his daughter Lyudochka on his shoulders to give her a chance to get a better view of great Stalin during a festive demonstration in the Red Square, with Stalin ensconced on the Lenin marble mausoleum. And the little girl would stretch out her little hands toward the great Stalin, her “best friend.”
Unfortunately, early in the spring of 1941, the wife of that Jewish doctor decided to have their little daughter spend some time in the Western part of Russia, unaware of the fact that shortly after their arrival the German troops would step in and conquer that part of Russia, whereupon the wife of the Jewish doctor and their little daughter disappeared, never to be heard of again.
Stalin clearly demonstrated that his regime had no need for religious obscurantism or for the darkness of ancient monarchy. It is quite possible that the unrest and the “revolutionary fervor” in the Middle East of today will not settle down but will grow into Stalinism.