A myriad of painfully sad stories that make up a devastating tapestry of the human condition. There seems to be no hope for the folly that man and woman are capable of. Russians cannot say that they were deceived, that they didn't know, like many Germans did about their democratically elected nazi regime. The whole Russian people are guilty of doing the dirty job of their government: they were the ones who informed on their neighbors; half the population incriminated the other half; kids gave away their parents and spouses divorced their partners for the sake of the ingratiating themselves with Big Brother Government. If God made man free, it never seemed so far from true as in Socialist countries like Russia. Lenin said 'freedom, what for?' and he was right. Russians really chose their own god, but not a good God, they got themselves a harsh and lying party/god, who kept an vigilant eye and iron hand firmly on them... and sort of still does.
It's an epic book. It focuses on families and individuals. The panorama is terrible. The more terrible because this state of affairs was imposed enthusiastically by the people on themselves, and even after years of continuous tragedy, killings, hard labor, and broken lives, they did not feel regret. The only conclusion possible is: Hell is not a punishment, it is a free choice.
“Motherhood gave Hava (a prisoner in the gulag) a new purpose and believe in life: 'I believed neither in God nor in the Devil. But while I had my child, I most passionately, most violently wanted there to be a God … I prayed that I wouldn't be parted from my daughter (whom she had on purpose only not to feel isolated and lonely) … but God did not answer my prayer.” The way the baby was treated until she was killed is terrifying. This little 2 or 3 page story, when you read it, will strongly convince you either that there is a God or there isn't, but it will certainly make an impact on you. The reader here is obliged to come to terms with the troubling question.
A book on common people, on human nature. A very spiritual book, precisely because God seems so apart from this people; He's not in the icons of the Russian Orthodox peasantry, not in the devastated cities and towns, not in the prisons and gulags, He's out of the picture altogether. The right climate for cultivating Stalins.