I’m reading Coming Out of the Ice: An Unexpected Life by Victor Herman. It’s a story about boy who followed his dad to Russia in the 1930s to help build cars for Ford for Russia.
With his talent, he made a big splash as a runner, a shooter, and a flyer—until Stalin started rounding up people and suddenly he was considered a “politico” and locked up in the Gulags.
It’s a tale of incredible willpower. It’s a tale of how goals can pull you through. He survived incredible challenges that most people died from. He kept his goal of returning to America and it pulled him through. I found a Washington Post article about him () and of course you can always buy the book on Amazon (but it’s out of print and it’ll cost more than you might expect).
At one point he survived nightly beatings for over 50 days. He described blood shooting out of his penis while he was being hit. During the day he was forced to sit in a 10 foot by 5 foot room with 15 other prisoners, and their shit and piss can in the room. This is a small, small sample of the suffering.
He meets, by matter of funny circumstance, some dude called Red Loon. Red Loon is an outgoing fellow and actually laughs and exhibits humor in this awful situation. Just got me thinking.
I take away many lessons from this but here’s a list of three:
- We can do more than we think we can
- Having goals pulls you through desperate circumstances
- A positive attitude can be developed and maintained in the worst of circumstances
One of the things that Victor Herman writes about is how depraved the men became. He describes the extreme hunger. So extreme that when one prisoner neglected to wipe soup off his lips, he was killed, and his lips eaten off. He writes that this condition of man was brought out by the circumstances but to brought out it must already be in us, but buried. This strikes him. And it strikes me too.
In any case. Nothing to complain about here. Not a bad thing to think of Victor Herman the next time you think you’ve got it rough.