Thomas Sgovio

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Thomas Sgovio (7 October 1916 – 3 July 1997) was an American artist, ex-Communist, and former inmate of a Soviet Union GULAG camp in Kolyma. His father was an Italian American communist, deported by the US authorities to the USSR because of his political activities. [1]

Artist person who creates, practises and/or demonstrates any art

An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art, practicing the arts, or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only. The term is often used in the entertainment business, especially in a business context, for musicians and other performers. "Artiste" is a variant used in English only in this context; this use is becoming rare. Use of the term to describe writers, for example, is valid, but less common, and mostly restricted to contexts like criticism.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

Kolyma region in Siberia

Kolyma is a region located in the Russian Far East. It is bounded by the East Siberian Sea and the Arctic Ocean in the north and the Sea of Okhotsk to the south. The region gets its name from the Kolyma River and mountain range, parts of which were not discovered until 1926. Today the region consists roughly of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug and the Magadan Oblast.

Contents

Biography

He was born in Buffalo, New York on 7 October 1916.

Buffalo, New York City in Western New York

Buffalo is the second largest city in the U.S. state of New York and the largest city in Western New York. As of 2018, the population was 256,304. The city is the county seat of Erie County and a major gateway for commerce and travel across the Canada–United States border, forming part of the bi-national Buffalo Niagara Region.

Sgovio moved to the USSR at the age of 19 with his father Joseph "...who the United States deported as a communist agitator in 1935." [2] On arrival in the USSR he gave up his US passport. [1] He became disillusioned after three years living in Moscow, tried to reclaim his passport at the US embassy there and was arrested by the NKVD on 12 March 1938 as he left the embassy. [1] After his arrest, he was first taken to Moscow's Lubyanka Prison and later transported to Taganka Prison in a Black Raven. [3] After a perfunctory and routine inquiry in which the Soviet authorities seem mainly to have been concerned with his attendance at the embassy, he was sentenced by a troika of three officials to forced labour as a "socially dangerous element". [1] Some years later Sgovio sought to have his case reviewed; the prosecutor who dealt with the application concluded that, "Sgovio does not deny that he did make an application at the American Embassy. Therefore I believe that there is no reason to review Sgovio's case. [1]

Passport Travel document usually issued by a countrys government

A passport is a travel document, usually issued by a country's government to its citizens, that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder primarily for the purpose of international travel. Standard passports may contain information such as the holder's name, place and date of birth, photograph, signature, and other relevant identifying information.

The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, abbreviated NKVD, was the interior ministry of the Soviet Union.

Taganka Prison was built in Moscow in 1804 by Alexander I, emperor of Russia. It gained notoriety for its use as a prison for political prisoners, both by the ruling tsars and during the years of the Soviet Union, by the Communist Party. During the Great Purge, the prison housed foreign enemies of the state, such as the German communist, Gustav Sobottka, Jr., as well as Russians. The prison became immortalized in poems and songs dating from before the October Revolution in 1918. The prison was razed in the 1950s.

Sgovio was transported in a prison train to Vladivostok. Sgovio wrote, "Our train left Moscow on the evening of 24 June. It was the beginning of an eastward journey which was to last a month. I can never forget the moment. Seventy men ... began to cry." [4] From Vladivostok he was shipped aboard the SS Indigirka to the Kolyma camps.

Vladivostok City in Primorsky Krai, Russia

Vladivostok is a city and the administrative centre of the Far Eastern Federal District and Primorsky Krai, Russia, located around the Golden Horn Bay, not far from Russia's borders with China and North Korea. The population of the city as of 2018 was 604,901, up from 592,034 recorded in the 2010 Russian census. Harbin in China is about 515 kilometres (320 mi) away, while Sapporo in Japan is about 775 kilometres (482 mi) east across the Sea of Japan.

Train A series of coupled vehicles for transporting cargo/passengers

A train is a form of transport consisting of a series of connected vehicles that generally runs along a railroad track to transport cargo or passengers. The word "train" comes from the Old French trahiner, derived from the Latin trahere meaning "to pull" or "to draw".

The SS Indigirka was an American built steamship that served in the Soviet Gulag system and transported prisoners. Launched in 1919 as SS Lake Galva, it served under the names Ripon, Malsah and Commercial Quaker between 1920 and 1938, when it was renamed Indigirka. On its final voyage in 1939 over 700 prisoners perished.

Within the camps the professional criminal classes were often kept alongside and dominated the other prisoners including the political prisoners. [5] Tattoos of various types were one of the hallmarks of the professional criminal and as a professional artist, Sgovio became part of the tattoo trade. For a while Sgovio was also personal orderly to a senior guard in the camp. [6] At another time he was part of a tree-felling brigade. [7] During the Second World War, Sgovio learned of the conflict in the Pacific when machine parts wrapped in old newspapers arrived in the Gulag having been diverted from the US Lend-Lease program with the USSR. [8] He witnessed and later wrote about the starvation and deaths of countless Gulag prisoners and victims of the Soviet authorities. [9]

Political prisoner someone imprisoned because they have opposed or criticized the government responsible for their imprisonment

A political prisoner is someone imprisoned because they have opposed or criticized the government responsible for their imprisonment.

Brigade Military formation size designation, typically of 3-6 battalions

A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of three to six battalions plus supporting elements. It is roughly equivalent to an enlarged or reinforced regiment. Two or more brigades may constitute a division.

Newspaper Scheduled publication containing news of events, articles, features, editorials, and advertising

A newspaper is a periodical publication containing written information about current events and is often typed in black ink with a white or gray background.

Sgovio survived his ordeal. After a 16-year sentence in labor camps, he was released but initially had to remain in the USSR where he was stigmatised as a former prisoner. [10] Eventually he was permitted to return to the United States in 1960. [11] He related his experiences and the lethal nature of the camps in his memoir, Dear America! Why I Turned Against Communism, published in 1972. [12]

His fate is also recounted in Tim Tzouliadis' book The Forsaken . [13]

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Applebaum 2004 , pp. 139140
  2. According to an AP article by Alan Cullison published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on November 9, 1997
  3. "Thomas Sgovi" Gulag History / Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University. Retrieved December 5, 2011
  4. Applebaum 2004 , p. 160 quoting Sgovio, Dear America!, 1979, pp. 129-35
  5. Applebaum 2004 , p. 261
  6. Applebaum 2004 , p. 250
  7. Applebaum 2004 , p. 326
  8. Applebaum 2004 , p. 400
  9. Applebaum 2004 , p. 310 quoting Sgovio, Dear America!, 1979, pp. 160-162
  10. Applebaum 2004 , p. 460
  11. Silvester, Christopher (6 September 2008). "Review: The Forsaken by Tim Tzouliadis". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  12. Sgovio, Thomas, Dear America! Why I Turned Against Communism, Partners' Press Kenmore, New York, 1979
  13. Tim Tzouliadis (2008), The Forsaken, The Penguin Press, 2008, ISBN   978-1-59420-168-4

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