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A Survivor In Vorkuta, Land Of The Gulag And Coal Mines

Anna Krikun spent a decade in a Soviet labor camp in Vorkuta, the city in the Russian Arctic where 36 workers died in coal-mine disaster last month. Krikun survived dictator Josef Stalin’s Great Terror, World War II, the gulag, and more than 18 years in Vorkuta's coal mines.


Anna Krikun is one of the oldest residents living around Vorkuta, a coal-mining Russian city above the Arctic Circle. At 93, Krikun is also one of the few remaining survivors of the Vorkuta gulag, one of the largest labor camps in the Soviet Union.
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Anna Krikun is one of the oldest residents living around Vorkuta, a coal-mining Russian city above the Arctic Circle. At 93, Krikun is also one of the few remaining survivors of the Vorkuta gulag, one of the largest labor camps in the Soviet Union.

Krikun now lives in a small flat in this apartment building in Vorgashor, a settlement in the outskirts of Vorkuta.     She was 23 when she arrived in Vorkuta, in March 1945. She spent 15 years at the labor camp, including more than three years working in a coal mine, after being convicted of collaborating and spying for Nazi Germany during World War II.  
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Krikun now lives in a small flat in this apartment building in Vorgashor, a settlement in the outskirts of Vorkuta.    

She was 23 when she arrived in Vorkuta, in March 1945. She spent 15 years at the labor camp, including more than three years working in a coal mine, after being convicted of collaborating and spying for Nazi Germany during World War II.  

Krikun said she did nothing wrong. After Nazi forces captured her home city of Oboyan, in the Kursk region in western Russia, Krikun first repaired roads and then worked as an interpreter. She says the Nazis forced all local residents to work for them.
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Krikun said she did nothing wrong. After Nazi forces captured her home city of Oboyan, in the Kursk region in western Russia, Krikun first repaired roads and then worked as an interpreter. She says the Nazis forced all local residents to work for them.

Krikun was later rehabilitated. She has kept the documents clearing her name.   When Soviet forces retook Oboyan in 1943, she and her mother were sent to a nearby prison, then to another prison in the northern western Murmansk region, where she was sentenced to five years of exile in a village in the northern Komi region. In 1946, she was accused of spying for Germany and sent to the Vorkuta camp. She was freed in February 1956, the same month when the late Stalin’s crimes were denounced in a speech by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev.
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Krikun was later rehabilitated. She has kept the documents clearing her name.  

When Soviet forces retook Oboyan in 1943, she and her mother were sent to a nearby prison, then to another prison in the northern western Murmansk region, where she was sentenced to five years of exile in a village in the northern Komi region. In 1946, she was accused of spying for Germany and sent to the Vorkuta camp. She was freed in February 1956, the same month when the late Stalin’s crimes were denounced in a speech by his successor, Nikita Khrushchev.

Krikun’s father had been arrested in 1924 and disappeared without a trace. Her mother's second husband was arrested in 1937 at the height of Stalin's Great Terror. She was able to obtain his death certificate only 36 years later. The official cause of his death one month after his arrest was heart failure – which was widely understood at the time to mean execution by firing squad.
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Krikun’s father had been arrested in 1924 and disappeared without a trace. Her mother's second husband was arrested in 1937 at the height of Stalin's Great Terror. She was able to obtain his death certificate only 36 years later. The official cause of his death one month after his arrest was heart failure – which was widely understood at the time to mean execution by firing squad.

Many people have left the Vorkuta area. But Krikun chose to stay on after her release. She says she had "nowhere to go" since her family's home in her native city of Sevastopol, in Crimea, was destroyed during the war. She worked 15 more years at one of Vorkuta's coal mines before retiring.
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Many people have left the Vorkuta area. But Krikun chose to stay on after her release. She says she had "nowhere to go" since her family's home in her native city of Sevastopol, in Crimea, was destroyed during the war. She worked 15 more years at one of Vorkuta's coal mines before retiring.

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