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Artem Lioudvikovsky

Fight for Freedom:The Russian Story

By: Artem Lioudvikovsky
College Now Course - BSS 1

Often, families have stories. Stories of childhood, of romance, of hardship, and of struggle. My family is no different. We have our stories. In my family there have been architects, philosophers, monks, as well as thieves, liars, and cheaters. This story however, is one that interested me greatly. It was about my great grandfather Sergei, and his fight for freedom.

Sergei had led a good life in Russia. He was married to a beautiful woman by the name of Olga, had two kids, and a job as an architect. He designed many buildings in Moscow, and made a decent amount of money. All of this changed as communism slowly took hold of Russia. News of Lenin's rise to power in Russia and his shift to communism slowly spread from Russia out into the world. Life began to change, slowly at first, but gradually the pace quickened. For a while, things actually improved. Lenin took a more capitalistic approach to Communism and Sergei was allowed to keep his life relatively the same, albeit with a few tweaks.

However, in 1929, things took a turn for the worse. Joseph Stalin came into power. Sergei could no longer practice his profession of Architecture. Nobody needed his skills, as the government assigned who worked where. Sergei's fight for freedom did not begin however, until well into Stalin's reign.

On a normal day in his life, Sergei went to work as usual. What he did not know was that his life was about to change forever. He walked past a group of his coworkers and noticed they were huddled around a circle. One guy stood watch, while the rest of the group crowded around in conversation. As he got a bit closer, he managed to hear a few words. They were discussing Stalin's policies, and how unfair they were. Sergei knew that if they were caught, every one of them would be either killed or imprisoned. He saw a well-known snitch slowly creep toward the group. He ran at him to try and stop him, and in doing so, tripped and fell onto him. One of the guards walked over to find out what the commotion was. The snitch told the guard that he had found Sergei saying negative things about Stalin and tried to stop him as Sergei tried to get away. Try as he may to defend himself, the guard hauled him away. They sentenced him for a federal crime and sent him to prison in the Arctic Circle.

Sixteen months, Sergei rotted in that prison. He was not allowed to even contact his family and tell them what had happened. For his family, it was safe to assume Sergei was dead. The conditions in the prison camp were horrible. He would often be picked out for the hardest of labor, and given the least of food. He lost about 60 pounds in the first month there. Sergei realized, that he had two choices. Either rot in that hellhole and die, or take a chance at freedom. He chose the latter. During one of his late-night work shifts, when the guard watching him fell asleep, he slowly crept toward the fence. He had been digging a small trench under the fence, just big enough to squeeze out, but small enough to be undetected. As he crawled through, he heard shouting. The guard had woken and was aware of Sergei's disappearance. Sergei began to run. He ran straight into the forest. Behind him he heard the barking of dogs and gunshots, but he did not look back. He felt the burn in his muscles and the shortness in his breath, but still he ran. The shouts and the dogs sounded further away. When it was clear that his pursuers had given up, he stopped near a cave in the forest. It was very cold in the night and if he did not take shelter then, then the cold would kill him. He used some matches he took from the kitchen and lit a fire. In the morning, he made his way south, following the stars. After 4 days of walking, he stumbled into a village. Near death from cold and starvation, he collapsed in the town square. He awoke in a bed by the fire. A woman had found him unconscious and had him brought into her home. She gave him food and a shelter until he regained his strength. She then told Sergei that there would be a supply train passing through the town soon and if he could sneak aboard it, it would bring him straight to Moscow. He stayed with the woman for 5 more days, and when the train came, he thanked her over and over for not only saving his life, but for giving him the chance to see his family again. He boarded the train and stowed away. For days he hid in a storage room, staying alive on the food and water the woman had packed for him. When the train finally arrived, he snuck off went back to his home. At first, his family did not recognize him. He had become thin and not shaven in many months. He then explained to them what had happened to him, and they took him back in. He got a job at a different factory and lived with his family for another 26 years before he died of a stroke.

This story was told to me by my grandfather, who had heard it from none other than Sergei, his father. It interested me greatly and this is why I wanted to share it with you.