Ivan the Thankful
And It Wasn't for a Turkey and All the Trimmings

For months, I have mentioned Daw Aung San Suu, the Lady, was a leader of the human rights movement in Myanmar (Burma).  Her efforts in her homeland resonate not only there but throughout the world.  Only Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn is at the same level of determination and who has suffered as much over decades.  He also won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  He feared that if he went to Stockholm, he wouldn't be allowed back into Russia.  The Lady was told if she left Myanmar, she would not be allowed back. 

In early 1945. Solzhenitsyn was arrested by Joseph Stalin and sentenced to eight-years in a gulag.  Five years later, he was transferred to Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan where the winter temperatures can reach -50 degrees Fahrenheit.  In 1953, he was sent into what was called an internal exile.  Solzhenitsyn was shipped off to Kok-Terek, Kazakhstan.

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Solzhenitsyn prison photo

Nevertheless, the experience at Ekibastuz was the basis for Solzhenitsyn's novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Ivan was a type of autobiography of Solzhenitsyn while at Ekibastuz.  The prisoners were awakened by 4:30 am to the bitter cold morning.  Ivan received a crust of moldy bread and some broth to warm him up for a day working as a slave laborer. Neither the bread nor the broth was very appetizing. 

Regardless, Ivan drank all the broth, and he then performed a strange ritual-like act with his ration of bread.  He tore the bread in half with the reverence reserved for communion.  One portion he ate; the other he carefully put in his pocket.  Ivan worked building a brick wall in the Kazakhstan wilderness. After a long day of frigid drudgery, he climbed into his bug-infested bunk and withdrew the half slice of bread from his coat.  He began to eat the bread that he had saved from that morning.  He felt quite fortunate as he went to bed that night. Reflecting upon the day, he felt thankful.

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Ivan aka Solzhenitsyn

The question is why was Ivan thankful?  What was it that made this such a good day for Ivan in the frozen wasteland of Kazakhstan?  Ivan felt fortunate because no one beat him that day.  He laid bricks on the side of the wall, protected from the biting wind.  Ivan Denisovich went to sleep that night thankful for all his many blessings, which he experienced that day. He closed his eyes that night as a truly grateful man.

Ivan accepted the reality of his situation and make the best of it. Instead of complaining about the problems associated with a Kazakhstan slave labor camp, he was able to accept his life and see beyond the trouble to the good. Complaining about the conditions of slavery wouldn't make his life any easier.  Ivan didn't start out each morning wishing that life were different. Instead, he began his day knowing that nothing was going to free him from his incarceration-but he wasn't going to add to his plight by resentment.  Ivan's attitude about life benefited him as he confronted reality.

Interesting, Ivan, aka Solzhenitsyn, faced reality.  An extremely negative reality became a most positive one.  He was thankful for life and for some of the small luxuries, like a moldy piece of bread.  And he wrote about it in his novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  We need to learn from Ivan to be thankful for what we have in life.

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Imagine the memories....

This is a video of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

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