Infirmary (Barabanikha labour camp)

Hard physical labour every day, poor food and difficult conditions in general at Gulag camps caused a great number of illnesses and injuries. These were treated at first aid stations or camp infirmaries.

Watch Václav Djačuk’s whole story

The majority of labour camps had nothing but a first aid station. Separate infirmaries such as this one were only found in large camps – the one depicted is from the Barabanikha camp, which was intended for 1,000 prisoners. However, it was probably of insufficient capacity in any case. It contains only four separate rooms of 6.5 m by 5.5 m, evidently to cater for several thousand prisoners exposed to extremely tough conditions. Doctors came from the ranks of prisoners and were in very short supply throughout the Gulag system. Many prisoners dreamt of becoming a medical assistant as the job meant liberation from strenuous ordinary work.

Watch Jan Plovajko’s whole story

"Working on the construction of the railroad in cruel frosty conditions couldn’t be withstood for more than six months, perhaps a year,” recalls Sergo Lominadze. “So if you wanted to stay alive you had to find a way around these conditions somehow, either by getting into the infirmary or finding work doing camp maintenance. In short, it was hard to survive the common work on the construction, even though, at least according to my experience, it wasn’t as gruelling as at other Gulag building projects.”

On a tour of the infirmary one can come across bottles and wrappers from medicines or glucose. Medicines were a genuine rarity at the camps and the criminal prisoners enjoyed using them as a narcotic. The frames of stretchers and other interesting items have been preserved here.

Prisoner's secret notebook

A prisoner's secret notebook was hidden behind the beam under the ceiling in the infirmary toilet. Though it also contains song lyrics and personal notes, it is full of technical designs from numerous scientific disciplines, suggesting it may well have been the work of an engineer.


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