Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Fear No Evil

This is a story from a book I’m reading by Natan Sharansky, “Fear No Evil” (1988) about his trial and time in the Soviet Gulag. He was a Soviet Refusnik who eventually was released (1986) and emigrated to Israel:

“Harold Kivilio was an Estonian whose cot was next to mine in the barracks. When the secret police came to his farm in the late 1940s to transport the entire family to Siberia, he and his brothers managed to join the partisans, but the KGB sent his parents and sister into exile. One after another, his brothers and friends were killed, and Harold remained alone in the forest. For years he lived with his girlfriend in a bunker. When she became seriously ill, he sent her to friends in the city. When troops combed the forest and surrounded it, he kept moving from one spot to another.

He had become a beekeeper, and each time he moved he carried the beehives on his shoulders. In 1957, when capital punishment was abolished for a brief time, he was one of the last to come out of hiding. He was given 25 years of camp and was serving the last 2 years when I met him. He served with dignity.

Each afternoon when Harold returned from work he would read his 2 favorite magazines, “Floriculture” and “Beekeeping”. They even permitted him to tend a small flower bed, and although it was forbidden to cultivate any food products in the camp, Kivilio managed to plant grasses that were high in vitamins, which he surreptitiously fed to me and other starved dissidents who had arrived from prison or the camp lockup. Without attracting attention, Kivilio shared his enormous camp experience with me, telling me who could be trusted, how the system of informers worked, and so on.

Years later an eyewitness described Harold’s release when his 25 years were up. He was met by his sister, his sole surviving relative. As they drove away she began to explain that her children knew nothing about why Harold had served time, and she asked him not to involve her family in politics.

“Stop the car,” Harold ordered. As he got out he added, “You don’t know me and I don’t know you. Good-bye.” Refused permission to settle in Estonia, he finally went to a Latvian village and returned to his occupation, beekeeping.”

Isn’t that an amazing story? We’re so blessed to have been born in the USA, and not the USSR! Don’t ever forget it. BTW, Sharansky was in prison for 9 years for simply wanting to emigrate to Israel.


Gayle said...

Thanks for sharing that, Eyes, it was fascinating. Can you imagine that man's sister saying to him right away: "Don't involve my family in politics."? I can understand her fear, but I think she may at least have waited until he had a decent meal! I've heard of this book authored by Sharansky before, and now it has become a must read; if I ever get time to read again, that is. Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

Most Estonians who were sent to Siberia never came back - my grandfather was one of them.
Thank God our beloved Estonia is free again.

Eyes said...

Gayle, Yes, it's an interesting story. His whole life, except for the beginning and the end, were made a living hell by communism. But, even in that hell, he rose above it and lived with dignity, and found friendship and joy. FYI, Sharansky has another book (more recent), "The Case For Democracy" which is supposed to be pretty good too.

Eestlane, Amen. A large portion of the Soviet population was in prison, literally. And, many had committed no crimes, by our standard, they simply wanted to be free. What a great story.

cube said...

Communism has brought much pain to the world, my family included. We Americans should count our lucky stars we live in such a wonderful country. It really irks me when I hear the whiner & complainers in our midst.

Eyes said...

Hi Cube, I'm sorry to hear that. Luckily my family escaped any intersection with the C....