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Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag [Kindle Edition]

Orlando Figes
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)

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Book Description

From Orlando Figes, international bestselling author of A People's Tragedy, Just Send Me Word is the moving true story of two young Russians whose love survived Stalin's Gulag.



Lev and Svetlana, kept apart for fourteen years by the Second World War and the Gulag, stayed true to each other and exchanged thousands of secret letters as Lev battled to survive in Stalin's camps. Using this remarkable cache of smuggled correspondence, Orlando Figes tells the tale of two incredible people who, swept along in the very worst of times, kept their devotion alive.



Orlando Figes was granted exclusive access to the thousands of letters between Lev and Sveta that form the foundation of Just Send Me Word, and he was able to interview the couple in person, then in their nineties. These real-time and largely uncensored letters form the largest cache of Gulag letters ever found.



Reviews:



'One is overcome with admiration for the kindness, bravery and generosity of people in terrible peril ... It is impossible to read without shedding tears' Simon Sebag Montefiore, Financial Times



'This powerful narrative by a distinguished historian will take its place not just in history but in literature' Robert Massie



'Electrifying, passionate, devoted, despairing, exhilarating ... a tale of hope, resilience, grit and love' The Times





'Moving ... a remarkable discovery' Max Hastings, Sunday Times



'The gulag story lacks individuals for us to sympathise with: a Primo Levi, an Anne Frank or even an Oskar Schindler. Just Send Me Word may well be the book to change that' Oliver Bullough, Independent



'Immensely touching ... [a] heartening gem of a book' Anna Reid, Literary Review



'The remarkable true story of a love affair between two Soviet citizens ... as much a literary challenge as a historical one: the book can be read as a non-fiction novel' Telegraph



'Remarkable ... Figes, selecting and then interpreting this mass of letters, makes them tell two kinds of story. The first is a uniquely detailed narrative of the gulag, of the callous, slatternly universe which consumed millions of lives ... The second is about two people determined not to lose each other' Neal Ascherson, Guardian



'A quiet, moving and memorable account of life in a totalitarian state ... The book often reads like a novel ... captivating' Evening Standard



'Orlando Figes has wrought something beautiful from dark times' Ian Thomson, Observer



'A heart-rending record of extraordinary human endurance' Kirkus Reviews



'[A] remarkable tale of love and devotion during the worst years of the USSR ... [Figes's] fine narrative pacing enhances this moving, memorable story' Publishers Weekly



About the author:



Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of Peasant Russia, Civil War, A People's Tragedy, Natasha's Dance, The Whisperers and Crimea. He lives in Cambridge and London. His books have been translated into over twenty languages.


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Product Description

Review

A poignant record ... as fascinating and inspiring as it is heartbreaking ... It is impossible to read without shedding tears (Simon Sebag Montefiore Financial Times)

This powerful narrative by a distinguished historian will take its place not just in history but in literature (Robert Massie)

Electrifying, passionate, devoted, despairing, exhilarating ... a tale of hope, resilience, grit and love (The Times)

Remarkable ... moving... possesses extraordinary value ... a notable contribution to Gulag literature (Max Hastings Sunday Times)

Immensely touching ... [a] heartening gem of a book (Anna Reid Literary Review)

The remarkable true story of a love affair between two Soviet citizens ... as much a literary challenge as a historical one: the book can be read as a non-fiction novel (Telegraph)

Figes has achieved something extraordinary ... the gulag story lacks individuals for us to sympathise with: a Primo Levi, an Anne Frank or even an Oskar Schindler. Just Send Me Word may well be the book to change that ... the kind of love that most of us can only dream of (Oliver Bullough Independent)

Remarkable ... Figes, selecting and then interpreting this mass of letters, makes them tell two kinds of story. The first is a uniquely detailed narrative of the gulag, of the callous, slatternly universe which consumed millions of lives ... The second is about two people determined not to lose each other (Neal Ascherson Guardian)

A quiet, moving and memorable account of life in a totalitarian state ... The book often reads like a novel ... captivating (Evening Standard)

Orlando Figes has wrought something beautiful from dark times (Ian Thomson Observer)

A heart-rending record of extraordinary human endurance (Kirkus Reviews)

[A] remarkable tale of love and devotion during the worst years of the USSR ... [Figes's] fine narrative pacing enhances this moving, memorable story (Publishers Weekly)

Review

This powerful narrative by a distinguished historian will take its place not just in history but in literature -- Robert Massie A poignant record illuminating the experiences of the millions who suffered untold miseries in Stalin's grinding system of repression - and throughout the history of Russia as a whole. But, more than anything, this is a book about love ... as fascinating and inspiring as it is heartbreaking; a unique contribution to Gulag scholarship as well as a study of the universal power of love, as relevant now as it was then. It is impossible to read without shedding tears -- Simon Sebag Montefiore Financial Times An extraordinary story ... Figes gives us the chilling feel of Stalin's Russia ... a tale of hope, resilience, grit and love The Times Remarkable ... moving... possesses extraordinary value ... a notable contribution to Gulag literature, and the extracts ... are finely translated -- Max Hastings Sunday Times Immensely touching ... [a] heartening gem of a book -- Anna Reid Literary Review The remarkable true story of a love affair between two Soviet citizens ... as much a literary challenge as a historical one: the book can be read as a non-fiction novel Telegraph Without sites to remind visitor's of the gulag's extent, it is becoming ever easier to forget it even existed ... Just Send Me Word may well be the book to change that ... Figes is one of the great modern narrative historians ... These letters ... give real-time, uncensored colour and life to the gulag ... Figes has achieved something extraordinary -- Oliver Bullough Independent Remarkable ... Figes, selecting and then interpreting this mass of letters, makes them tell two kinds of story. The first is a uniquely detailed narrative of the gulag, of the callous, slatternly universe which consumed millions of lives ... The second is about two people determined not to lose each other -- Neal Ascherson Guardian A quiet, moving and memorable account of life in a totalitarian state ... The book often reads like a novel ... captivating Evening Standard Just Send Me Word, grimly absorbing, conveys the pity of the Stalinist Gulag with integrity and proper sympathy -- Ian Thomson Guardian A heart-rending record of extraordinary human endurance Kirkus Reviews [A] remarkable tale of love and devotion during the worst years of the USSR ... [Figes's] fine narrative pacing enhances this moving, memorable story Publishers Weekly

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3088 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (24 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007TB5U3U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #156,280 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Orlando Figes is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London. His books include The Whisperers, A People's Tragedy and Natasha's Dance. He lives in Cambridge.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars That's what I call devotion - a real love story. 9 Mar. 2015
By JK TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Just Send Me Word; A true story of love, Lev and Svetlana Mishchenko, who survived 14 years of separation due to World War II and Lev's imprisonment in a Gulag - Soviet forced labour camp.

Orlando Figes based his book upon the true story of Lev and Svetlana with most of his account based upon the contents of thousands of letters, dated 1946-1954, exchaged between the two during their separation. How the letters survived is mind boggling but how the couple, students when they first met, remained devoted and refused to be parted is altogether miraculous. A testament to the human spirit. The idea of that torn and battered devotion is what I enjoyed the most about the book.

If I'm being honest; I found this a bumpy read and didn't enjoy the format. The letters are reproduced as a series of snippets and added here and there, along with poetry and photos, to enrich the story of Lev and Svetlana 'as created' by Orlando Figes. There's much more Orlando Figes in the book than there is Lev and Svetlana. At times Figes paints them shadowy and thin in their own story. It can be difficult to find them underneath the wordiness of the author.

At 334 total pages 'Just Send me Word' isn't long for this type of book but it took me a while to read. I wasn't in a rush to keep picking it up and finished the book out of respect for the subjects rather than the pleasure of reading. However; the opportunity of seeing the world as it was behind the 'Iron Curtain' is one I'm grateful for.

Not what I expected but I will acknowledge the talent of the author and his meticulous research. For the reasons listed above, and for the pleasure of meeting up with Lev and Svetlana, I'm leaving 4* rather than 3*.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I feel privileged to have read this book. 8 Nov. 2014
By Mrs. H. V. Minor VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My, what a story! This isn't fiction but the account of two people, Lev and Svetlana, who lived through the worst of the Stalin years. They meet while waiting to be called to the entrance exam of Moscow University and forge a deep friendship that turns to love and profound loyalty. Lev gets swept up in the ghastliness of WWII, is taken prisoner by the Germans for whom he agrees to be a translator. " . . . Lev and half a dozen other Muscovites were taken to the spy school in Katyn, where a Russian-speaking German captain proposed to turn them into spies and send them back to Moscow to gather information for the Germans. Only this, he said, would save them from almost certain death in Dulag-127, where they would be returned if they refused". Lev and another prisoner, Aleksei Andreev, eventually manage to escape from the Nazis, taking extreme risks with their lives to do so, and are picked up by a contingent of United States tanks: "Lev explained that they had been in Buchenwald and now wanted to return to the Soviet Union." You couldn't make up a story like this - it is the stuff of legend but it is true. Meahwhile, Svetlana waits for Lev who is arrested and imprisoned by SMERSH under accusation of spying for the Germans: "On 10th November 1945, a three-man military tribunal of the 8th Guards Army in Weimar sentenced Lev to death for treason against the motherland, under article 58-1(b) of the Criminal Code reserved for Soviet servicemen. the sentence was immediately commuted to ten years in a corrective labour camp of the Gulag - a concession often made by Soviet judges in the interest of a system built on slave labour. The trial had lasted all of twenty mintues. Read more ›
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Send Me Word 21 May 2012
By S Riaz HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
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 important, is that they were often smuggled into and out of the camp, avoiding the censors and making them a fascinating record of life both within the Gulag itself and in state controlled Moscow during the years of the Cold War.

Both Lev and Sveta seemed to be very sensible people; when they first met they were studying physics, which Sveta continued to work in for most of her life and they were both careful not to burden each other with negative feelings during their time apart. During the war Sveta found herself evacuated, along with her colleages, so they could continue their work away from the front lines. Meanwhile, Lev was taken prisoner and, at the end of the war was sent on a death march from Buchenwald. Forced into a force confession he then found himself sentenced to ten years in a Gulag near the Artic Circle. From 1946 until his release in 1954 his life was that of a prisoner. At first he was unsure about whether to contact Sveta or not, not even sure that she was still alive and unwilling to pressurise her with his feelings when he was a prisoner. However, it was clear from the start that Sveta still loved him - even though they had not seen each other for five years.

What follows is an extraordinary relationship, where Lev literally lived through her letters.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Incredible story but didn't grab my attention
I love the idea behind this book, an extraordinary story of love through the war and also extraordinary that their letters survived. Read more
Published 17 days ago by CT
5.0 out of 5 stars The Russian version of Love in times of Cholera
A book full of a great story of humanity written by an expert Historian. Like his previous books also this one excellently written and so very readable. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Stefan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A beautiful story
Published 2 months ago by joethelad
4.0 out of 5 stars True love requires grit
This is a love story without sentimentality but one that is powerful in its endurance through circumstances which should have crushed it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by David Potter
4.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying read
This true story shows how love CAN conquer all.Lev had fallen in love with Svetla in 1940's Russia.After being imprisoned by the Germans,and then sent to a gulag in 1945,they kept... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Dr Evil
4.0 out of 5 stars Just Send Me Word
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? Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ragnar
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and inspiring
This is an extraordinary book which would be of interest to anyone wanting to read about what life was like in the Soviet Union. Read more
Published 5 months ago by John Baird
5.0 out of 5 stars an extraordinary tale of 2 people illustrating the story of the USSR
This story, based on the trove of letters between a prison camp inmate and his girlfriend and later wife is a truly remarkable find. Read more
Published 6 months ago by The Navigator
4.0 out of 5 stars Hope springs eternal
I expected this to be predominantly the letters between Svetlana and Lev. In fact Figes supplements short extracts from the letters with explanatory background. Read more
Published 7 months ago by C. J. Tyler
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book.
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. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Andy O'Boogie
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