One of the Fifteen Million by Nicholas Prychodko
Boston : Little, Brown and Co., 1952. First Edition. Hardcover. 236 pages ; 21 cm. $3.00 dust jacket with lots or rips around the jacket edges. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.
ONE OF THE FIFTEEN MILLION
by Nicholas Prychodko
This is the true story of one man's experiences in a Soviet slave labor camp. It is also a record of what millions of people have endured, and are enduring, under the iron heel of the totalitarian state.
The author of this shocking, first-hand account was thirteen at the time of the Bolshevik revolution; except for his boyhood years on his father's farm in the Ukraine, he grew up as a citizen of the new communist state. In Mr. Prychodko's case this meant being under constant surveillance because of his "unfavorable background." His father had owned the twenty-five acres he farmed, both his grandfathers had been Greek Orthodox priests, and, indeed, just to be a Ukrainian in the thirties was enough to make one suspect for "nationalist activities."
But he had no reason to believe he would be singled out by the secret police as a "criminal element." As a university lecturer and an expert in methods of training technical personnel, he was leading the kind of useful life approved by the state. Then one day in 1938 came the dreaded knocking at the door. He was wanted by the NKVD for "questioning."
Mr. Prychodko never learned until after his release from custody what the charges against him had been. But for the next three years his life was to be one of imprisonment and torture, of back-breaking and soul-crushing "corrective punishment" in the Siberian forced labor camps.
In this unvarnished, factual account, so dramatic in its simplicity, Mr. Prychodko tells the story of those years. It is a searing record of what Soviet justice can mean to the citizen unfortunate enough to receive the attention of the state.
The great purges had subsided by 1938, but there was no let-up in the demand for more and more men to staff the labor camps. Mr. Prychodko tells how he was questioned mercilessly by the Secret Police and how he was finally transported in a sealed train to Siberia along with thousands of other political prisoners. Conditions in the camps were indescribably bad, cunningly planned to break a man's will to resist and thus render him a slave in fact as well as by decree: far below zero temperature during the winter, swarms of voracious insects in summer, inedible food and ceaseless, savage toil under the watchful eye of armed guards who did not hesitate to shoot down prisoners in cold blood — such was the lot of everyone.
The means by which Mr. Prychodko eventually obtained his release, his journey back to the Ukraine and his escape to freedom make up the exciting climax of this moving story of one man's deliverance from communist servitude. But the importance of ONE OF THE FIFTEEN MILLION goes far beyond being the narrative of one man's experience, heart-rending as it was. As the author says, his purpose has been not merely to tell of his personal ordeal, but to tell the democratic people the truth about conditions in the USSR.
Readers of this revealing document will be interested to learn what happened to Mr. Prychodko after his escape from behind the Iron Curtain. In 1948, after several years in European D. P. camps, he came to Canada under the auspices of the Canadian Ukrainian Committee. Since his arrival in Canada he has worked as a common laborer, a linotype operator, a machine shop inspector and a laboratory assistant.
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