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

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3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  365 ratings  ·  78 reviews
"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."

In 1946, after five years as a prisoner—first as a Soviet POW in Nazi concentration camps, then as a deportee (falsely accused of treason) in the Arctic Gulag—twenty-nine-yea
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Published May 22nd 2012 by Tantor Media (first published January 1st 2012)
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Tasha
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
Claire
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
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Susan
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
Vicki
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
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
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Ranjini
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
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.
Becky
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
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Steven
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
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Vivek Tejuja
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
Adrienne

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
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Melinda
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
Ian
'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
Angela
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
Virginia
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 LEADERS.....it'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
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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
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
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.
Caroline
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13318306

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.
Becky
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
Tami
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
Rusty Tobin
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.
Anna
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.
Casey-Lee
The gulags are brought to life through the sharing of personal letters and stories. It brings history to a certain vividness through the touch of the personal that otherwise would have been difficult to achieve. This book was wonderful, engaging, and touching. Lev and Sveta are the couple that managed to stay together against all odds. Their story is a heartwarming one that certainly sticks with the reader, especially given that it is something one would think could only happen in the movies. It ...more
Karen
SO good, and unique, in fact, one-of-a-kind. The letters this family agreed to donate have become witnesses to Stalin's vindictive, merciless and pointless campaign against his own people, imprisonments that the history books always seem to gloss over. I loved the ending, where Lev explains that the dream he had had in the Gulag of seeing Sveta and their daughter came true. The best part is that, although they didn't survive to claim a fairy-tale life, they survived, were still young enough to h ...more
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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...
A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin's Russia The Crimean War Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History

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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.’

Sveta”
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“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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