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Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  436 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
A heroic love story and an unprecedented inside view of one of Stalin's most notorious labor camps, based on a remarkable cache of letters smuggled in and out of the Gulag

"I went to get the letters for our friends, and couldn't help but feel a little envious, I didn't expect anything for myself. And suddenly—there was my name, and, as if it was alive, your handwriting."

ebook, 352 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Metropolitan Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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It's not easy giving 2 stars to a story based on such personal hardship and suffering but that's what I'm going to have to do. While my heart goes out to those who suffered through the Gulag sytem, including both my grandparents, I just didn't find this author's writing style all that engaging. I found it a chore to pick up and looked forward to moving it off my shelf. It is no fault of the two lovers in this story, in fact, I felt sad for all they had to go through. It's the writing of this sto ...more
I love you, I'll wait for you, come back.

Queste parole famose continuavano a tornarmi in mente mentre leggevo Just Send Me Word. Qui però non si tratta di un romanzo e di parole accuratamente scelte da un autore, ma di una storia vera, eccezionale, per il risolvimento, per la durata, per la pazienza.
I due protagonisti, Lev e Sveta, sono giovani moscoviti con molte speranze quando la guerra scoppia nel 1941 e Lev viene mandato al fronte. Viene catturato dall'esercito tedesco e spende quasi tutto
May 21, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the moving story of the love affair between Lev and Sveta, who first met while taking the entrance exam at Moscow University in 1935 and only ended with their death in old age. What makes this story extraordinary is that they were kept apart, first by WWII and then by Lev's sentence to ten years in a Gulag on his return to the Soviet Union. During all these years, they kept their love alive by infrequent, and often perilous, meetings and thousands of letters. What makes the letters even ...more
Aug 30, 2015 Vicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was good, but I didn't like that it had been written as a novel, so I tried to read it as a non-fiction account, which is what is was. But the content was interesting.
Roderick Hart
Apr 09, 2015 Roderick Hart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the story of two people, Lev and Svetlana, forcibly kept apart because Lev is serving ten years in the Soviet Gulag.

How did this come about? He was captured by the Germans, escaped to the Americans, then chose to return to Russia. At which point he was charged with being a spy and sent to a labour camp. The fact that he could speak German didn’t help, but it didn’t make him a spy either.

Once separated, they communicated by letter. Most of the letters have survived – over 1,240 of
Just Send Me Word is a powerful love story of two industrious, intelligent, and positive Russians, Svetlana and Lev, torn apart for fourteen years by World War II and the Gulag, thereafter. One that can hardly be read through dry eyes. They exchanged thousands of letters secretly even as they each coped with the struggles of everyday life, especially Lev, who had to survive the atrocities on POWs in Stalin’s camps. They shared many dreams, fears, and desires through their words; not allowing tim ...more
Shonna Froebel
This book is based on a collection of letters between Svetlana Ivanova and Lev Mishchenko over many years and interviews with them and others. The couple donated their private archives to Memorial, a human rights research charity in Moscow, and Figes became aware of it shortly thereafter. The letters span the time from July 12, 1946 to November 23, 1954. There are 647 letters from Lev and 599 from Svetlana. Most of these letters were not sent through official channels and so were not written wit ...more
Victoria Blacke
I enjoyed this book. It was a slow, quiet read about an amazingly steadfast enduring love. You peak behind the iron curtain and want to scream about the injustice of what happened to this unassuming couple. However you must admire the courage and famous Russian stoicism with which they meet all obstacles and beat the odds. This is book is not for everyone. However, if you are a history buff of WWII this provides an incredibly different perspective of the events during and after the war.
Carey Combe
Sep 25, 2012 Carey Combe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this account of an incredible story of two people who manage to stay together against all the odds. I have read fuller more horrifying accounts of the gulags (not least, The Gulag Archipelago), but this brings it all home to life. Wonderful.
Mar 08, 2013 Joana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, real-life
What a book...
Feb 16, 2016 Mirella rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When he was a child, Bolshevik revolutionary 19s killed Lev Mischenko 19s parents in Siberia. Raised by his grandmother, Lev became a physicist and while at university, he met and fell in love with Svetlana. When World War II began, before they could marry, he joined the army to battle the Nazi 19s. During one particular battle, he was captured and imprisoned in concentration camps. Mischenko tried to escape, but failed. His face was added to the millions of Soviets already in custody. Fortunate ...more
May 08, 2013 Becky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-myself
Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag is a historical non-fiction book which explores the lives of Lev and Sveta – two young Russians who fall in love in the 1930s and are separated by war.

I’m not usually a reader of non-fiction for pleasure so this book is a departure for me from my comfort zone. I went along to the Jewish Book Week events in February and Orlando Figes spoke about his experience writing this book based upon the letters written by Lev and Sveta at the
Jan 31, 2013 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Figes' The Whisperers almost 5 years ago and really enjoyed it. It's one of the first books I entered in Goodreads, although I'm befuddled as to why I didn't write anything about it at the time.

Just Send Me Word is an even more focused way of looking at life in Russia during Stalin's regime. While The Whisperers used personal stories to look at the overall reign of oppression, Just Send Me Word focuses more narrowly on the Gulag system, as described in the letters exchanged between one
Vivek Tejuja
Mar 26, 2013 Vivek Tejuja rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To live a life away from the one that you love is not easy at all. It almost leaves me breathless thinking about it. I mean just the thought of it is enough for me to send out a prayer for it to never happen to two people who love each other deeply. And while I type this, I am thinking of a wondrous book I finished reading this month. A lot has been written on war camps and the tortures people had to undergo in any war-time, in any country and any place in the world. However, this book is extrem ...more
May 26, 2016 Adrienne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction

Sveta and Lev met as a college students in the Soviet Union and began dating, but with the outbreak of World War II, their romance hit a snag. Lev was captured by the German Army in 1941, and after spending years imprisoned by them, escaped as the war was ending. However, the Soviet officials deemed all those who had been captured by the Germans as spies, and soon Lev found himself as a political prisoner in one of the Gulag's forced labor camps, facing ten years in prison. Not daring to write t
This was the most beautiful book that I've ever read. It's nonfiction, and tells the greatest love story since Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. And this one has a happily ever after, but they had to earn it. It all takes place in Russia. This is the story of Svetlana and Lev. First they were separated when he became a soldier in WWII when the German's invaded. Then he got captured and was out of touch for about five years. The next thing Svetlana knew ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Ian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'Just Send Me Word' is a remarkable work of documentary analysis and an eye-opening introduction to the Gulag system for the unfamiliar. Lev's and Svetlana's hundreds of letters were not only preserved for decades in their entirety, they were also numbered and dated, allowing Figes to reconstruct with accuracy to the day their shared, yet separate, lives, when Lev was serving a ten-year sentence, like many other former German POWs after WWII, and Svetlana was surviving without him in Moscow. Fig ...more
Feb 16, 2014 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
This book is an amazing story of human resilience. Based on over 1200 letters written between a prisoner and his beloved, this book is an incredible story and it happened. Letters are the details of our hearts, poured out in handwriting and ink. It is easy to forget that with all of our electronic correspondence but there is something truly personal about maneuvering your hands over the words. After being imprisoned by the Germans in WWII, Lev Mishchenko is imprisoned for spying in his native Ru ...more
Sep 01, 2013 Virginia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. After reading this, Anne Applebaum's 'Gulag', and Anthony Beevor's 'Stalingrad' I'm still stunned & in awe of the Russian people, especially those born in the 20th century. They've endured so much hardship, so much misery, so many betrayals, so many lies & such cruelty FROM THEIR OWN's literally impossible for me to imagine how a people survive that - I mean what does it do to you , as an individual and as a nation?
Orlando Figes begins with this lovely s
Shannon  Robards
What is most remarkable about this collection of love letters is that this primary source has been uncensored and survived such a devastating part of Russian history. The narrative that links these letters however is less than remarkable, drawing what should be quite a short read out for what seems at times like an eternity.
Ubah Khasimuddin
Orlando Figes is a fantastic writer and he doesn't disappoint in this novel about a true story of love and life in the Soviet Union's gulags. With vivid detail and attention to every point, he makes us feel as if we are there - great read for those who want to understand more about life under Stalin after WWII.
Stefania Manni
Feb 05, 2015 Stefania Manni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Qualcosa in più dell'amore e qualcosa in più di un romanzo. Uno scritto che trafigge per la lucidità delle pagine e la delicatezza dei personaggi. una pagina di Storia raccontata dalla corrispondenza privata tra due amanti, incredibilmente sopravvissuta alla vita dei protagonisti e rinvenuta negli archivi del KGB.
Lissy Clement
May 28, 2014 Lissy Clement rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved it. The couple was so loyal to each other despite the distance. You get an insight into the Siberian camps and horror of imprisonment, daily life in Moscow during the Soviet period: the poverty, the suffering, yet the hope and love. It's well worth your time.
May 05, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!

The true story of the relationship between two people, Svetlana Aleksandrovna & Lev Glebovich Mishchenko who are kept apart by Lev's imprisonment in a Russian Gulag. I loved this book.
What a story, I really enjoyed learning of this part of history. I have been so focused on the atrocities of Germany, that I haven't thought about what the Soviet Union and Stalin did. I really enjoyed hearing things through the letters but there were times when I wanted more of their point of view rather than narrative. There were so many people in this story I also found it hard to keep everyone straight. I think overall I really enjoyed this book, but it wasn't as powerful as I expected it to ...more
Jul 08, 2012 Tami rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolutely beautiful story based on the thousands of love letters that were shared between Lev Glebovich and Svetlana Aleksandrovna during his 10-year incarceration in a Russian Gulag starting in 1945. Their correspondence is considered one of the most, if not the most, comprehensive, real-time portrayal of Russian prison life that is in existence. Very tender to read their personal correspondence and also incredibly interesting information about life as a prisoner. He was wrongly con ...more
Feb 25, 2016 Mateusz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zapis wielkiej (bo innego słowa w tym przypadku użyć nie wypada) miłości dwojga ludzi, rozłączonych murem łagru. Przez lata wymieniali ze sobą dziesiątki, ba, setki listów. Narracja momentami może się odrobinę dłużyć, mimo tego lektura wciąga. Warto, jako że jest to jedna z nielicznych kompletnych historii korespondencji z więźniami Archipelagu.
Rusty Tobin
Aug 08, 2014 Rusty Tobin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although there are too any redundant excerpts from letters between the gulag inmate and his family and future wife in Moscow, the book provides a fascinating look at life inside Russia immediately following World War II, particularly how ordinary people survived by circumventing the authorities.
May 03, 2014 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Compiled mostly of letters written by Lev and Svetlana during Lev's imprisonment in the Soviet Gulag, this is a mesmerizing tale of love that survived a fifteen year separation (first because of WWII and then because of his wrongful sentencing). Highly recommended.
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Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.
More about Orlando Figes...

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“Sveta had much less to say, but she sat with Lev and held his hand, and when I asked her what had made her fall in love with him, she replied, ‘I knew he was my future. When he was not there, I would look for him, and he would always appear by my side. That is love.’

“I understood that the most terrible thing in life is complete hopelessness... To cross out all the 'maybes' and give up the fight when you still have strength for it is the most terrible form of suicide. It's almost unbearable to watch it happening in others. Unjustified hope - salvation for the weak in spirit and intellect - irritates me. But the loss of hope is the paralysis, even the death, of the soul. Sveta, let us hope, while we still have strength to hope.” 5 likes
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