Working together

In her book, Grey Is the Color of Hope, Irina Ratushinskaya gives a moving account of her imprisonment in a remote Siberian labor camp. She was one of a small group of women housed together in a separate area called the "Small Zone," reserved for those considered especially "dangerous" because of their political views.

Starvation, humiliation, and isolation were employed to attempt to weaken the prisoners and break their resistance. Lies and enticing promises of reward were intended to sow distrust among them and to get them to inform on one another.

But the women resolved difficult frictions among themselves and maintained their strength by creating a loving community in the midst of the moral insanity around them. They went to every extent to help and support one another. Often this involved acts of tremendous self-sacrifice and courage. Their goal was to return to freedom with a clear conscience. "...Despite everything," Irina wrote, "we retained our unity and stood by our principles." The prisoners' unity and nurturing love for one another couldn't be undermined, and it sometimes earned the silent admiration of guards who watched them. Eventually Irina was released.

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Meetings for youth of all faiths
May 6, 1991

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