|2004-12-08 - The dark side of Kolyma
8 Dec, 04 - 19:37
GPS-pos: N66°55´ | E152°43´ | Alt: 14 M
-39°C, we´ve advanced another 17 kilometer and enjoyed a spectacular sunrise and sunset. We´ve also been plagued by an ice-cold southerly wind all day. We´ve pitched the tent -one tent pole broke- at N 66°55´50.9 and E 152°43´31.6
Let me first of all note that these few people who´s on and off dotting the Kolyma, are amongst the finest humans to be found on earth today. Generous, unselfish, helpful, dignified and interesting characters. We´ve met a few spectacular one´s so far. I need time, energy and a warm place to do these people justice when writing about them, so I will do this once we reach Srednekolymsk. We hope to get there before the 15th, so that we at least get one long night to get a new 3 minutes ready for Swedish TV(www.svt.se/gokvall). Due to this, we´ve gone into a higher gear and we ski 12 hours a day presently. This means we ski 4 hours in total darkness. Sunrise is 11.30 a.m. and sunset around 2 p.m. You can well understand how run down we are presently. We´re utterly tired and frozen. I doubt we´ll be able to make it in time.
´´Every day ahead of us, will be the toughest day in your life´´ I told young Johan today.
´´Every day this week has been the toughest in my life´´, he answered.
Yes, we´re dead tired, but, enough of complaining about such trivial matters.
There´s more important things to tell. Most of these few settlements we´ve passed, with or without people at the moment, are all old concentration camps -gulags- from the days of the dictator Stalin. (There´s more about the gulags in earlier dispatches) Leftovers from those terrible days are mines, slagheaps and the odd watchtower who sinisterly shoot up over the dense taiga. The people who live on these places of tragedy today, don´t want to talk about those days. They don´t seem to feel bothered at all by this knowledge. I have understood that this way to accept things the way they are and go ahead with life as it is, is a major part of the true Siberian soul. I accept this. And understand it. But, I can also, after this month of freezing, comprehend the unnecessary and terrible suffering these poor souls that ended up in Stalin´s many deadly gulags experienced. There´s nothing worse than freezing. I know, because I once passed through the Sahara desert, north to south, on a bicycle and almost died due to thirst.
I have complained in past dispatches that I have a chest infection which makes me cough day and night. However, when I did think about these unfortunate people in the camps, it made me feel ashamed. They had to work, almost naked, deep inside steaming hot mines, and than, many times every day, they had to dispose all slag on the outside in the freezing cold. Underfed and overworked they died like flies within weeks of their arrival.
No matter that this place belongs to the coldest on earth, the unfortunate prisoners were given only light clothes and canvas shoes. They slept in thin canvas tents with only one small stove in the center and there´s no way one can fully understand there suffering. Most of them, of course, died. Most of them froze to death.
When we pass these former death camps, skiing north, and experience this arctic cold and its stark beauty, it´s almost unconceivable how people can treat each other like this. I shiver in the cold. And, the most odd thing of all really, in the midst of all this, some of the nicest beings I´ve ever met live. The evil and the good at the same place. Kolyma.
PS. We´ve received an incredible amount of reactions and questions from people all over the world. We will answer all these in a special dispatch, once we reach Srednekolymsk. Please, continue to write to us, I does inspire us. DS