A desperate and yet hopeful act, this.  People throwing letters out of trains taking them to the gulag, trusting that those letters may be found, and found, sent, and sent, reach their destination.  And how much more remarkable that some of those letters, cast into an endless steppe or a strange distant city, were found, were sent, were delivered, were received. 

Who can describe the zeks’ letters – the letters the zeks threw from the dark of the goods wagons into the dark of the great mailbox of the Russian steppe, and which sometimes, unbelievably, reached their destination? 


Note: ‘zeks’, according to the book, are ‘people sentenced to a term in a labour camp’, the name being an abbreviation of zaklyuchenny, ‘someone who has been confined’.  

Source: Vasily Grossman, Everything Flows, trans. Robert and Elizabeth Chandler with Anna Aslanyan (London: Vintage Books, 2011), pp. 100-01

Photo credit: Erdenebayar at pixabay


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