In the Commemoration Day for the Victims of Political Repression a new exhibition dedicated to Tamara Petkevich “Keeping the soul to myself...” was opened. Tamara Petkevich had become famous for her remembrance book “Life is an Unpaired Boot” published in 1993, in which she described her life and time she spent in Stalin's execution squads.
Tamara Vladislavovna was arrested in 1943 for counter-revolutionary activities, she spent 10 years in the execution squads and in exile. She saw arrest and firing squad of her father in 1938, death of her mother and younger sister in blocked Leningrad, she got through betrayal of her closest friends and forced separation with her son. Prison, exile from one place to another, heavy common works and finally the execution squad theatre, where she became an actress. Creativity and her dear friends helped her to overcome the challenges, to save face and individuality, which totalitarian system eradicated in person.
Tamara Petkevich died in 2017. After death of the writer her friend, literary scholar Olga Rubinchik donated photographs, personal belongings of Petkevich, documents, manuscripts, art works. These exhibits can be seen at the exhibition. Gathered materials helped us through the prism of private woman’s story see different sides of person’s existence in a system of the GULAG: work conditions and living conditions of the prisoners, faith of the execution squad children and members of traitor families, personal relations and creativity as the only possible occurance of freedom.
Among the most remarkable exhibits is the program of concert of theatre-estrada group of NKVD Northern Railway Labour Camp (Petkevich took part in that concert), hand-made Christmas decorations, made in 1949 by execution squad painter Evgeniy Alekseev, a portrait of director Alexander Gavronskiy. He was a head of theatre group in NKVD Northern Railway Labour Camp, he was also a friend and tutor of Petkevich.
There is also a travel diary of 1972 by Petkevich, written during the trip of the writer where she “died, resurrected and lived”. Special meanings acquired the geographical names: Abez, Mikun, Kozhva, Ust-Vym, Urdoma, Mezheg, Knyazhpogost, Uchta, Inta – places, where the prisoned actors of theatre-estrada group of NKVD Northern Railway Labour Camp performed in a spectacles.
In 2019 journalist, Tatyana Kutsenina repeated this route. She took pictures of stations and villages, mentioned in the travel diary of T.Petkevich. These photographs added historical exhibits.