Journey into the Whirlwind | Study Guide

Eugenia Ginzburg

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Journey into the Whirlwind | Quotes


Perhaps waiting for an inevitable disaster is worse than the disaster itself.

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 4

In the two months after Genia Ginzburg is first interrogated, she experiences extreme anxiety and fears she may have a nervous breakdown. She contemplates whether the anticipatory fear is worse than what can actually happen, but at this point she is naive and cannot envision the extent of the "disaster."


They may kill me if they can—but I won't help them.

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 4

Genia Ginzburg views the coffin of a woman who committed suicide after being accused of crimes by the authorities. Having considered suicide herself, she calls on her strength and decides to fight rather than succumb to the hopelessness that would drive her to suicide.


All this will be over one day, and you've only got one life.

Makarova, Part 1, Chapter 7

Makarova, a pediatrician and fellow first-class passenger on the train to Moscow, grips Genia Ginzburg's arm as she stands by an open carriage door and considers stepping out. Makarova lets Genia know suicide is not a solution. Bad times will not last.


Pretend that syllogisms invented by sadists reflected the normal processes of the human mind.

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 7

Examining the logic her interrogators use to accuse her of collaboration with the enemy, Genia Ginzburg realizes there is no logic for sadists, even though the pretenses of their arguments and rationale may seem to make sense.


How thin the line is between high principles and blinkered intolerance.

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 20

After a fellow prisoner, Social Revolutionary member Nadezhda Derkovskaya, refuses to accept a cigarette from the Communist Genia Ginzburg, she considers Derkovskaya's refusal. While it seems she is highly intolerant of Communists, her attitude reflects her staunch party ideology, or so-called high principles. It is difficult to discern the difference between the two—if indeed there is a difference.


My children abandoned to the mercy of fate (if only it were fate!).

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 22

One comfort for Genia Ginzburg after her arrest is the knowledge her husband is caring for their children. After learning of his arrest, however, Genia is wracked with fear for their safety, especially because the NKVD (Soviet secret police) controlled all aspects of life and posed real threats far more frightening than the usual challenges and misfortunes children might encounter in life.


Can [Stalin] really be deliberately out to destroy the best elements of the Party?

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 26

Genia Ginzburg is warned to avoid saying anything critical about Joseph Stalin in case fellow prisoners report her. This censorship causes her to wonder whether the country's leading Communist member could really be behind the repression and terror. Because he is so revered, Genia finds it inconceivable he could be something other than what most people perceive him to be.


May I never experience all that it is possible to get used to.

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 27

During the first night Genia Ginzburg hears the sounds of people being tortured in the Butyrki prison, she thinks of this old Eastern saying. She is greatly disturbed by the torture and does not want to grow so accustomed to it that it fails to horrify her.


Penal servitude—what bliss!

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 30

Genia Ginzburg expected the military tribunal to sentence her to death. When she is sentenced to solitary confinement, or penal servitude, she is elated to escape from death. The phrase comes from the poem "Lieutenant Schmidt" by Boris Pasternak.


She had the NKVD's word for it, hadn't she?

Anna Zhilinskaya, Part 1, Chapter 31

Anna Zhilinskaya uses this argument to justify why Eugenia Podolskaya gave statements bearing witness against accused individuals, even when she had no firsthand knowledge of their actions. Podolskaya had total trust in government authority, believing that if government authorities said something, it must be true. She considered that helping them was a noble act in the best interest of the state, not something morally wrong. This notion is similar to the contemporary attitude that assumes persons charged with a crime must be guilty (they would not have been arrested if innocent) or the assumption a police officer's word is golden because government authorities would not lie. There is considerable dramatic irony in the statement, as everyone but Podolskaya knows the opposite is true.


How good that they were left in peace, and every evening strolled in the embankment.

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 32

During her trip in an open truck through the streets of Yaroslavl to the prison, Genia Ginzburg observes common street scenes. She is glad some people still have their freedom and enjoy ordinary activities, such as walking at night. She is also glad the Communist Party has not destroyed everyone, but has spared some and is leaving them "in peace."


Compared with the cell, the corridor was a whole enormous world of its own.

Genia Ginzburg, Part 1, Chapter 33

Genia Ginzburg has this thought during her solitary confinement. Many people think of traveling to new places as an opportunity to broaden their horizons and knowledge of the world. Because she's confined to a cell, walking in the corridor provides that opportunity for Genia, allowing her to observe the world beyond.


If they stand up against Stalin now no good will come of it.

Tanya Stankovskaya, Part 2, Chapter 2

Tanya Stankovskaya wants to live long enough to tell a man—imprisoned as a result of signing a petition supporting her—that he should not have done it. She now considers resistance futile because Stalin's power is too great.


A human being who has lost his sense of direction is no longer human.

Genia Ginzburg, Part 2, Chapter 4

Genia Ginzburg says this when she gets lost on the steamer Dzhurma because of her poor physical condition. She means it literally: without the brain power to follow directions and remember where one is and needs to go, one is not human. The statement also can be interpreted metaphorically a person adrift and unable to get back on course is lost, or no longer human.


At all costs we must live—and each day brought something to be grateful for.

Genia Ginzburg, Part 2, Chapter 5

Surrounded by death in the Magadan camp infirmary, Genia Ginzburg comes close to it herself. Yet she is determined to live and is thankful for each sign of returning health, such as increased appetite. Although she faltered occasionally, she has maintained a strong will to live.

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