Stanisław Dubieszko, second lieutenant of the Reserve, 41 years old, investigating judge, married.
I was arrested on 16 August 1940 in the internment camp in Ulbroka, Latvia, together with eleven other officers, and incarcerated in the central prison in Riga.
They made the charge that, as an investigating judge for the Dzisna and Pastavy districts, I had cooperated with Polish intelligence and investigative departments in fighting Communism and that I engaged in combat against Soviet intelligence. I was interrogated some dozen times by NKVD officers, known as sledowatiels. The interrogations took place usually at night. They tried to extort confessions, all the time concerning the same circumstances. They had little evidence and their interrogation methods were very primitive. The investigating judges who interrogated me were usually below the level of our functionaries from the offices of investigative departments. They drew up imprecise reports – often at odds with the facts – and demanded that I sign them. Methods of threatening and verbal abuse were largely used. I myself wasn’t beaten, and in general, during my five months’ stay in the Riga prison, I heard about only one case of beating a prisoner during interrogation. During the first interrogation, however, one of the interrogators came at me several times with his fists clenched and I had the impression that he was going to punch me – but he didn’t. On 11 December 1940 I was tried by the Osobowo Pribaltiyskay Okrug war tribunal [?] and sentenced to ten years of ispravitel’no-trudovye lagerya [gulag camps] and deprivation of civil rights for five years on the above-described charges.
Towards the end of February 1941 I was sent to the camps, and I arrived in the camp in Vetlosyan, Komi ASSR. From the middle of March until the end of April I worked in the stone quarries crushing limestone. The work was beyond the capabilities of people unused to physical labor. The work quota was set at 4.5 cubic meters of stone per worker. Meeting the quota entitled one to food from the so-called second caldron – as meals depended entirely on work. The food resembled prison food and was barely sufficient for people who didn’t work at all. The first caldron was not enough for anyone without buying additional food. I will provide some details pertaining to our food just for the sake of illustration. The daily food ration from the second caldron contained 16 grams of vegetable fats, and from the first caldron – 9 grams. Since the administrative functions were entrusted to people who had been convicted for criminal offences, only up to three fourths of the issued products reached the caldrons in the first place. Hard work and malnutrition resulted in a high mortality rate. In the camp where I was incarcerated the daily mortality rate varied from three to seven people out of a total of 1,500 prisoners. Diarrhea and malnutrition claimed the highest number of lives in the woods. A lot of people suffered from scurvy, and night blindness was also quite a widespread disease. I felt that I was weakening day by day during the month and a half when I worked in the stone quarries. From May 1941 I worked in a carpenter’s workshop. The working conditions were better than in the stone quarries. The food, like everywhere, depended on meeting the prescribed work quota. Housing conditions – hard. 1.5 men per one pallet. However, it was possible to get some rest, because we worked in two shifts. There was a day shift and a night shift, so while some went to work the others used their beds. This state of affairs had a detrimental effect on hygiene and caused considerable lice infestation. The barracks were extremely lousy, and so despite overworking, in summer one couldn’t fall asleep at night. I used to fall asleep in the small hours, and after a few hours’ rest I had to go to work again. We had a twelve-hour workday with a break of half an hour at noon. We received food twice a day: at 5.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m.
In general, Soviet prisons are immensely harsh. Once, due to huge overcrowding, 60 people were crammed into a cell that was 10 meters long, 6 meters wide and 3 meters high. As a result, the room was unbearably stuffy. The temperature was so high – although the cell was unheated – that despite broken windows, in winter we wore only underwear.
(Recollections from the staging area prison, the Butyrka prison in Moscow).