North Texas Daily

Author brings light to dark chapter in Russian history

Author brings light to dark chapter in Russian history

October 07
21:02 2009

By Josh Pherigo / Staff Writer –

Two dozen people attended a presentation focusing on the deaths of more than 66 million Russians during dictator Joseph Stalin’s regime.

Ruth Derksen Siemens of the English department at the University of British Columbia presented the lecture and a screening of the film “Through the Red Gate” on Wednesday afternoon in Curry Hall 104.

Siemens’ presentation revolved around her doctoral research over letters written between 1930 to 1939 by incarcerated Russians.

Siemens highlighted the plight of one family who managed to write and send 131 letters throughout the course of their captivity.

She said through the letters of a single family’s struggle to survive, she hopes to spread information about a chapter in history that few people know about.

“I want to break the silence,” Siemens said. “We must honor the victims and commemorate the survivors.”

Siemens said the letters were smuggled from Russia to Canada and stored in an attic until their discovery in 1989.

Siemens said during Stalin’s regime, there were more than 2,000 prison camps, the largest holding more than one million people.

Siemens is originally from Canada and her family is of Russian decent. She said that the subject was meaningful to her because it is a part of her own family’s history.

“The letters are filled with a lot of hope and a lot of despair,” Siemens said.

Carrie Hart, an international studies junior, said many history professors offered extra credit based on attendance.

“This part of history has always interested me, so I wanted to come find out yet another perspective on a subject not all people know about,” Hart said.

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