This is the photo of one of the victims of Stalinism who is given her voice in Professor Hiroaki Kuromiya's book, as he brings to life the awful reality of the last days of Mariia Vladislavovna Al'bova. Born in 1897, Al'bova was shot on 7 December 1937 for no reason beyond the need to spread terror and so retain Soviet power with Stalin in control.
Drawing on the NKVD files now held in Kiev, Professor Kuromiya gives us "The Voices of the Dead- Stalin's great terror in the 1930s" in detailed personal renderings from some of the worst years of Stalinism.
Not everybody arrested was shot by the Soviets, but we are left in no doubt that life and death rarely had any logic for any of the people who tried to live under Soviet rule in the 1930s.
One comfort that can be taken from the book is that many of the NKVD oppressors followed the innocent into the Soviet mass graves near Kiev in Bykivnia forest: even then perhaps judgement of individuals needs to be partially tempered, some NKVD functionaries are believed to have been shot for not having been brutal enough. [p.22} All in a day's work by Stalin's rules, which were designed to ensure he stayed on top, by any means including universal terror and the slaughter of innocents.
Some of the saddest words, repeated in nearly every case laid out so well in this detailed book, are at end of most of the expositions about the individuals caught up in Stalin's meat grinder with the NKVD: "In 1989 she was rehabilitated owing to the lack of corpus delicti: no relatives were found."

"My Lord! What canal is there deep enough for us to drown that past in?"
[From The Gulag Archipelago, Volume Two, pp. 119-120].

All that endless suffering and wasted potential in a land doomed to be ruled and ruined by ignorant xenophobic paranoia, where an individual never has any value.

Kuromiya, Hiroaki. The voices of the dead- Stalin's great terror in the 1930s. Yale University Press, 2007.
ISBN 978-0-300-12389-0. 295 pages.

Al'bova's tragedy.

Italic numbers indicate references, plain text numbers indicate Al'bova's file pages.
File page verso is designated by "zv" [zvorot], as in "9zv".

Page 192

The Al'bovas (sic)

There were as many tragedies as there were families. Mariia Vladislavovna Al'bova was an ethic Pole who was married to Vladimir Iakovlevich Al'bov, a railway clerk in Kiev. Al'bova was born in 1897 in Kiev, completed studies at a gymnasium and before the Revolution worked as an accountant for the Singer company. At the time of Al'bova's arrest on 5 November 1937, she was working as an accountant in the town of Makariv just west of Kiev. Her son, Iurii, 24, worked as a disinfection instructor at a district health department, her daughter, Galina, 20, as an accountant in Makariv. (9) The family was well educated by the standards of the time, and everything appeared normal -except that the father was missing.
In 1914, at the beginning of World War 1, Vladimir Al'bov was mobilised. He fought at the front as a second lieutenant until 1918, then returned home. As an officer in the military, his experience of the revolution could not have been a happy one, unless he supported the Bolsheviks. Most likely he was pilloried by his soldiers. Al'bov probably served initially under the command of General Anton Denikin, who was chief of staff in the Kiev military district when war broke out in 1914. When the White Army led by Denikin occupied Kiev in the autumn of 1919, he appears to have joined it (whether he did so voluntarily is not known). Al'bov left Kiev with Denikin's Army
Page 192 ends.
Page 193-The 'mug shot' of Mariia Vladislavovna Al'bova.
Page 194
when it was driven out of the city by the Soviets in December 1919. Al'bova never saw her husband again (9).
In 1923, however, she received a letter from somebody called Florinskii in Salonika, Greece, enquiring about her husband's whereabouts. She answered that she did not know. Oddly, two or three weeks later she received a letter from her husband, who turned out to be living in Salonika. He worked in the fields there. Then, in 1924, Al'bova received a second letter from her husband in which he said that he was now working as a cook and guard, still in Greece. After that Al'bova never heard from him again and knew nothing of his whereabouts. (9zv.)
Nothing is known about the Al'bov's life together, whether they still loved each other and whether that was the reason why Al'bova never re-married after their separation. Probably Al'bova wanted to remain faithful to her husband even though he had gone abroad. Indeed she never divorced him. From the point of view of the Soviet secret police, however, her failure to re-marry meant that she was waiting for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the return of Al'bov to his homeland. However, the fact that the Al'bovs had not been in touch with each other since 1924 frustrated her interrogator, identified as Pavlov. So he chose another sort of incrimination, Al'bova's connections with the Polish church community in Makariv. In interrogation on 7 November 1937 she was questioned about her role in the community. Al'bova denied that she was a member of it at all: she had merely been the keeper of the church keys from 1923 to 1926, at the request of the church priest, Vonsovich. She was an acquaintance of this Vonsovich and his sister, Khristina. Vonsovich had been arrested in 1928 and exiled, according to Al'bova. (In fact Vonsovich was Bronislaw Wasowicz or Dunin-Wasowicz, who had been arrested in May 1926, released in December 1926, arrested again in January 1927 and sentenced to three years in the Gulag in the Soloviki Islands in the Arctic White Sea.) 10 During her time as the keeper of the keys, the director of the community was one Koliakovskii (Poliakovskii?) who was now dead. Al'bova admitted that in 1926-27 she had signed a letter Koliakovskii had brought her concerning the repair of the church as mandated by the district authorities. (9zv-11)
The NKVD deposed three witnesses against Al'bova. Their testimonies were formulaic: Al'bova was a member of the church
Page 195
community and an anti-Soviet person who had opposed collectivisation and always complained about life under the Soviet regime; Al'bova praise Poland, saying that people lived better and religion was not persecuted there; Al'bova opposed buying government bonds which were not necessary to her -all the same she had had to live without bread; Al'bova said that the Soviet government would not last long and Ukraine would be taken over by Poland: Al'bova said that she could not stand the Soviet regime; Al'bova corresponded with her husband until 1930, and so on (15-20).
On 13 November 1937 Al'bova was interrogated by a different NKVD officer (whose name cannot be deciphered). She now corrected her earlier statement. The director of the Polish church community was Petrovetskii; he had been arrested and exiled, and had died. The elder of the church was Agelia Frantsovna Milovetskaia, who had also been arrested. Where the latter had lived Al'bova did not know. Al'bova added that she did not know any other members because she did not belong to that community. Pressed harder, she admitted that she knew the Uniate priest Shchepannek (elsewhere spelt "Stepaniuk") and the church community secretary Galina Vil'gel'movna Vishnevskaia. They and the Vonsoviches visited her home and socialised with her. Then the interrogator demanded that she discuss their 'counter-revolutionary' work. Al'bova responded that she knew nothing about this. She only knew that both Vonsovich and Shchepannek had been arrested. As had Vishnevskaia. Then the interrogator threatened her, claiming the NKVD had information that she belonged to a 'Polish Fascist organisation'. Al'bova vigorously and repeatedly denied the charges (13-13zv). Even when presented with witnesses' testimonies, she stood her ground. She admitted she knew the priests, but she resolutely denied belonging to the church community. Nor had she opposed the collectivisation of agriculture or conducted and 'counter-revolutionary' activity. She denounced all the testimonies and pleaded innocent, adding that she had nothing more to say (14-14zv).
Without material evidence, Al'bova was nevertheless indicted. On 26 November 1937 she was sentenced to be shot in accordance with the Polish Operation. She was executed on 7 December 1937 at midnight (25, 27). Al'bova, one of forty-one people executed in Kiev that day, was buried in the mass graves of Bykivnia. 11
When she was rehabilitated in 1989, no relatives were found (30).
Page 195 ends.
Page 196 inter alia:
The fact that Al'bova had worked for Singer, set up in Russia before the Revolution by its American parent company, may have made her suspicious by default. 12 No doubt being an ethnic Pole made her even more suspicious. Yet it appears that Al'bova's main 'crime' was that her husband had fled abroad and she associated with a Catholic and a Uniate priest.
Page 197
Although borders divide families everywhere, the Soviet case is extreme: any foreign connection, even purely familial correspondence, was often taken as grounds for capital punishment in the 1930s. In Kiev and Ukraine, Polish connections were the most dangerous: case after case discussed in this book involves a Polish connection of some sort. Although the Al'bova affair initially appeared to be related to her husband's emigration abroad, it soon became a matter of Polish connections.
Other factors also contributed to the destruction of traditional families. As is shown by the famous case of Pavlik Morozov, a boy who was said to have informed on his own father and was killed as a result, children were encouraged to spy on their own parents. Under these conditions, families struggled to be stable and enduring. True, many withstood the terror of the 1930s and survived intact (see Chapter 11). Yet untold numbers of families destroyed in the Great Terror have no survivors. Husbands often disappeared into the nether world of the Soviet prison network, wives were arrested and exiled, children were taken to orphanages and families quickly disintegrated. The Soviet state and the party were meant to function as a substitute family. Deprived of the two traditional pillars of human life, family and religion, many Soviet citizens had nothing to bond with emotionally but the state. The state became a large 'family' for them. 15

Kuromiya, Hiroaki. The voices of the dead- Stalin's great terror in the 1930s. Yale University Press, 2007.
ISBN 978-0-300-12389-0. 295 pages.