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

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3.84  ·  Rating details ·  542 Ratings  ·  97 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
...more
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Published May 22nd 2012 by Tantor Media (first published January 1st 2012)
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Tasha
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, russia-reads
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
...more
Andrea
Jan 20, 2017 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, russia, wwii
Based on the subject matter, Just Send Me Word should have been a fascinating book. Unfortunately, the author's writing did not work for me.

Between work, my family, and my college course, I have barely any time to read now. I'm going to move on to a book I enjoy.
Miriam Cihodariu
A lovely account of a lovers separation, spanning over a decade, reconstructed by the historian author from interviews and the remarkably preserved hundreds of letters. It's also a story with an almost happy end, though a bittersweet one.

Though the details are mostly focused on the human relationships (the one between the two characters, chiefly, but not only), you can still find out a lot of historical details about the gulag system and the general life of Soviet Russia. Some details are reall
...more
Susan
May 17, 2012 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
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 22, 2012 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.
James Folan
A remarkable true story all right, but I found the telling of it strangely uninvolving.
Jos
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, real-life
What a book...
Hillary
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such an interesting and remarkable story.

I really enjoyed reading this book because it touched and gave insight on so many different topics such as the war, love, determination, the difference between now and then, ways of communicating and etc.

It is crazy to me to believe that a story like this could have actually happened, and to read about why and how it occurred is mind blowing.

It is a story of love and determination of two people who refused to never give up on each other no matter
...more
Tony Laplume
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The gulag has developed an almost mythical status over the years. It's generally accepted to be a byword for the worst kind of prison. But what was life actually like inside it? Here we have a peculiar opportunity to find out. Turns out, if you've ever watched M*A*S*H, you already have a better idea than you'd think.

At least as presented by Figes, it's really a matter of complaints. This isn't to say there weren't worse elements, but if you kept your nose relatively clean, you could survive rela
...more
Elisa Goudriaan
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Een ontroerend en mooi geschreven boek, gebaseerd op een lange briefwisseling van 8 jaar (in totaal werden er 1246 brieven heen en weer geschreven tussen Lev en Svetlana in de periode 1946-1954), die van onschatbare waarde is om een beeld te krijgen van het dagelijks leven in de Goelagkampen. Hoewel het perspectief van Lev Misjtsjenko er maar eentje is, naast dat van Aleksandr Solzjenitsyn, Varlam Sjalamov en vele anderen, waarvan sommigen beduidend zwaardere werkzaamheden moesten uitvoeren, gee ...more
Padmin
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Praticamente un epistolario dal Gulag stalinista.
1246 lettere
647 di lui a lei
599 di lei a lui.
Lui è Lev Glebovič Miščenko, lei Svetlana Ivanov.
S’incontrano per la prima volta nel 1935, all’università di Mosca, facoltà di Fisica. Nel ’41 lo scoppio della guerra li divide. Fatto prigioniero dai tedeschi, una volta tornato in patria, Lev viene arrestato e inviato in un campo di lavoro a scontare una pena di dieci anni per tradimento.
Lev conosceva il tedesco e venne considerato una spia perché “s’im
...more
Philippa
A true story based on letters sent between a Russian couple separated by war then imprisonment in one of Stalin's labour camps. An interesting insight but a bit slow.
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
Andrew Barkett
A sobering and educational view into the Gugal experience of one man and the agony of one woman waiting for him.
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
Vivek Tejuja
Mar 07, 2013 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
Becky
Mar 04, 2013 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
...more
Roderick Hart
Apr 09, 2015 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
...more
Ian
Nov 25, 2013 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
Mirella
May 04, 2013 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
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
...more
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
Trevor
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A heroic love story and an unprecedented inside view of one of Stalin's most notorious labor camps, based on a remarkable cache of hundreds of letters smuggled in and out of the Gulag.

In 1946, after five years as a prisoner, irst as a Soviet POW in Nazi concentration camps, then as a deportee (falsely accused of treason) in the Arctic Gulag, twenty-nine-year-old Lev Mishchenko unexpectedly received a letter from Sveta, the sweetheart he had hardly dared hope was still alive. Amazingly, over the
...more
Steven
Jan 05, 2013 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
...more
Virginia
Aug 21, 2013 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 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
...more
Tami
May 22, 2012 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
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
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Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.
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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”
13 likes
“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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