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Getman Painting - Recaptured Prisoners

Getman Painting - Recaptured Prisoners Civil Rights Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs Visual Arts

Forced laborers who spent years in the GULAG system usually lived in remote areas.  Escaping from their miserable lot was always a temptation, but where would they go even if they successfully “got away?” 

Living in the cold, with no place for shelter, was difficult but at least the escapees were free.  However ... if they were caught ... they faced even-worse treatment. 

If a recaptured escapee wasn’t executed, he would have to serve an even-longer sentence.  Reminiscent of Jean Valjean - in Victor Huge’s Les Miserables - the original “crime” carried a smaller sentence than all the escape-attempts (which tacked-on many more years).

The Global Museum on Communism tells us more about this Getman painting:

Escape attempts occurred at every camp. The majority of the prisoners who attempted to run knew that their odds of success were next to nothing.

A successful escape required a weakened and malnourished prisoner to travel great distances under harsh conditions, and without adequate provisions - perhaps no more than a few pieces of saved bread. But the attempt gave them, at least for a few days, hope of freedom.

While he was imprisoned at the Taishetlag camp, Getman knew of inmates who tried to escape. The two men depicted in the painting were caught and brought back to the camp. They received additional twenty-five-year terms.


Media Credits

Image, described above, online courtesy Global Museum on Communism (The Gulag.org).  The original Getman painting is maintained by the Jamestown Foundation.

 

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