The 30th of October – the commemoration day of the victims of political reprisals
His name was Stepan Ivanovich Lopatin. He was distantly related to our family – some third cousin of my grandfather. Stepan Ivanovich is simply one out of millions of people who became victims of political reprisals during the those terrible years of communist rule.
He was born in 1910. He worked for the kolkhoz as a tractorist. He got married two months before they arrested him. On the 10 July 1937 his wife had to learn from personal experience, what „the right to work freely“ means in actual fact. And this is how the story happened.
In the morning brigadier Esin appeared in front of the door and , as he passed, gave the following order: „Shura, get ready. You are going to leave right now, in order to help with the hay-harvest in the neighbouring kolkhoz for the next two weeks!“ – Stepan Ivanocich replied: „How dare you? You come here to give my wife orders?“ – The brigade leader furiously stamped his feet, but said nothing.
Stepan Ivanovich took his breakfast and went to work. And while he was sitting on his tractor, he noticed a car approaching him...
Pronov, the judge, accused Lopatov of having lost grain during the harvest and tried to persuade him to give his consent to the indictment. Upon this he explained that he would not receive more than five years, when admitting his guilt, and that he would probably have to serve half of the sentence only. He furthermore said that there were not enough good workers in the far north, so that the ywould send him there to work as an excavator driver. After this they lead Polonskiy, the kolhoz book-keeper, into the office room, who testified that Lopatin had lost the grain intentionally.
Stepan Ivanovich was taken to Krasnoyarsk on the 5 December 1937. Only 22 years later he learned from his rehabilitation certificate that on this very day some mysterious, unknown „three member board of the NKVD administration“ had sentenced him to 10 years. He did not get an insight into his „file“ or detailed information on the contents of the bill of indictment till the end of his life.
In 1999 I read a protocol (No. 147?) on convict No. 122 (?): „Lopatin, S.I., spread spiteful slanders about the kolkhoz structure and the financial situation of the kolkhoz farmers. He praized fascist Germany and spoke ill of the soviet government. At work he committed acts of sabotage, undermining governmental economy. He did so during the harvest, intending to damage soviet combine harvesters, which caused the kolkhoz losses amounting to 2000 rubels. He refused to admit his guilt. He was proved guilty based on evidence made by Yurtayev, Esin, Polonskiy, as well as by a direct confrontation with Polonskiy“.
Stepan Ivanovich served his sentence at the Chayurya mine, Magadan Region, where
he was forced to work as a gold prospector. There they lived in tents – more
than hundred convicts in each of them. In the direct environs there were
numerous camps. The prisoners had to work 11 hours every day. Stepan Ivanovich
was saved by a miracle. He was in a very bad state of mind. His wife had written
him a letter informing him that she would not wait for him any longer: „ 10
years – that is too long a time!“
He served the full sentence without any kind of reduction and left the camp in 1947. Lopatin was rehabilitated in 1959, after having made the necessary application.
Stepan Ivanovich is one out of millions of victims of political reprisals. Many disappeared and were not heard of again. Their graves (if you may call places of mass burials this way), are overgrown by weeds, the names of the dea have fallen into oblivion. It is now the task of the young generation to bring buried history to light and unravel all the messages from that gloomy epoch.
member of the Krasnoyarsk „Memorial“ Organization,
Today’s Newspaper, 29.10.05