They went to the Children’s Colony. How decent everything was there. Each was on a separate cot, with a mattress. They all crowded around in a group and all of them were happy. And all of a sudden a fourteen-year-old boy said: “Listen here, Gorky! Everything you see here is false. Do you want to know the truth? Shall I tell you?” Yes, nodded the writer. Yes, he wanted to know the truth. (Oh, you bad boy, why do you want to spoil the just recently arrived prosperity of the literary patriarch? A palace in Moscow, an estate outside Moscow…) And so everyone was ordered to leave - and the boy spent an hour and a half telling the whole story to the lanky old man. Gorky left the barracks, streaming tears. He was given a carriage to go to dinner at the villa of the camp chief. And the boys rushed back into the barracks. “Did you tell him about the mosquito treatment?” “Yes” “Did you tell him about the pole torture?” “Yes” “Did you tell him about the prisoners hitched up instead of horses?” “And how they roll them down the stairs? And about the sacks? And about being made to spend the night in the snow?” And it turned out that the truth-loving boy had told all… all… all!!!
But we don’t even know his name.
On June 22, in other words after his chat with the boy, Gorky left the following inscription in the “Visitor’s Book,” which had been specially made for this visit:
“I am not in a state of mind to express my impressions in just a few words. I wouldn’t want, yes, and I would likewise be ashamed [!], to permit myself banal praise of the remarkable energy of people who, while remaining vigilant and tireless sentinels of the Revolution, are able, at the same time, to be remarkably bold creators of culture.”
On June 23 Gorky left Solvoki. Hardly had his steamer pulled away from the pier than they shot the boy. (Oh, great interpreter of the human heart! Great connoisseur of human beings! How could have have failed to take the boy along with him?!)
And that is how faith in justice was instilled in the new generation.
They try to tell us that up there on the summit the chief of literature made excuses, that he didn’t want to publish praise of USLON. But how can that be, Aleksei Maximovich? With bourgeois Europe looking on?! But right now, right at this very moment, which is so dangerous and complicated! And the camp regimen there? We’ll change it, we’ll change the camp regimen.
And he did publish his statement and it was republished over and over in the big free press, both our own and that of the West, claiming it was nonsense to frighten people with Solovki, and that the prisoners lived remarkably well there and were being well reformed.