Memoirs from the Gulag
(EDIT: I have removed the name of the camp from this post solely out of respect for my mother who doesn't believe the public has a right to know the truth about camp ******.) For those of you who have heard my horror inducing recounts of my experience at the Gulag concentration camp, you know that this post does not twist the truth and is entirely objective.* 50 miles away from any form of civilization, the Gulag (or as they like to euphemistically brand themselves: ****** summer camp) is the dying whimpers of the satanic Stalinist movement. Through the use of authoritarian discipline tactics only fully represented by Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, we comrades were taught not to say and embody the idiom "I love big brother", rather the phrase "I love camp ******". Unfortunately, I was one of the very few who managed to resist the everyday indoctrinating and in the case of more resistant campers (I stand proudly amongst that group), the hourly torture sessions. You might be wondering why I'm bringing this up now; after all, it's been 4 years since I've escaped. The answer lies in my C++ midterm I took this past Friday. For some reason, my C++ midterm was inconveniently scheduled for Friday. Because it was such a short day (Shabbos came in right around 4:20), and public transportation is notoriously slow on Friday in Jerusalem, I decided to stay on campus for Shabbos. I had invitations to have dinner with some guys learning in a Kollel next door to JCT and to the Gottesmans in Rachavia for lunch (both were wonderful). I met my Friday night hosts for Mincha at his Kolel which shares premises with a Yeshiva where I have a bunch of friends. About halfway into the excruciatingly long and subpar singing services, my eye was caught by this man (I use that generous term only because at the time it hadn't clicked yet) who looked vaguely familiar. There are some people in this world that can only be described as punchable. This unique attribute is not a virtue of anything that a person says or does, it is simply a consequence of how they look. However unfair that is, nothing would have given me greater pleasure than walking over to the man and socking him in the face. It is very unusual for me to want to hurt anyone, but if I had the chance I would rip this guy's arms off and beat him to death with them. For about 15 minutes I sat and wondered why. After all, I'd already gotten all psychopathic inclinations out of me during my brief middle school experience. After 15 minutes of me staring at him, he finally caught my eye. After seven seconds of me quite awkwardly not breaking eye contact with him, his eyes opened wider than eyes are supposed to open, and proceeded to make an expression that shows up in all of my nightmares. In the span of a short second, deeply traumatic memories I had suppressed (starring stolen canoes, decapitated chickens, and half a dozen or so mattresses pathetically sinking in the lake, just to name a few) broke through the gates of my subconscious and came alive once more. Someone may have just as well slammed me over the head with a cast-iron steel pan as far as my reaction was concerned. In my terrifying surprise, my mouth let slip an embarrassingly long and high-pitched shriek. Fortunately, it fit right in with the Kolel's atrocious singing. In fact, I later overheard some of them wishing they could harmonize the way I did. It's funny how two people can describe an event they experienced together in completely different ways. If you were to ask him at that very moment he would say that he was my counselor at camp ******. I would say that he was guard #YGL609 with a shift from 03:00 - 15:00 (this information provided crucial for my escape). Both of these descriptions are accurate, by only possible through the use of doublespeak; a system that all guards of the gulag were well acquainted with. During that horrific summer, I gained some life-saving reflexes which resurfaced as he started to approach me with a devilishly large smile on his face. Animal instinct is to fight, flight, or freeze in such situations. From past experience, I knew that flight was my best way to get out alive. I'll spare you the details, but the guards were trained to make sure that anything caught pretending to be unconscious (asleep, dead, or otherwise) regretted it. Additionally, there was no point in fighting, the phrase "don't bring a knife to a gunfight" didn't begin to describe my situation. So flight it was. Overturning my chair to stop him from catching me would have worked great, but I carelessly forget that I was still in it. In life or death situations, you tend to forget such trivial details. By the grace of G-d, time moved slower for me than for him. That is the only possible explanation for what happened next. He came right over me extending his hand out about to strike me, but because time was moving slower for me, I was able to reach out, grab his hand and pull myself up. Still grinning at me, he pulls me into what a naive person would call a hug. I knew that this method of attack was similar to how boas and pythons kill their prey: lure them into a hug and then squeeze them to death. After much miscommunication, he ended up conveying to me that he had come to see the light and that he had dropped his previous satanic ways. I mentioned earlier that the Kolel that he was in shared space with a Yeshiva where I had friends. The next day, I met one of my friend's fellow students who happened to be no one other than my greatest comrade in the gulag. He, like me, was a champion of rebellion during that summer. In the span of 24 hours, I had reunited with my greatest friend and greatest foe (turned ally) from an infamous summer. It's certainly been a wild Shabbos. All the best! Eliyahu *What follows I prefer to call "slight embellishment" seeing as "lie" has such a negative connotation attached to it and just doesn't have the same ring to it. Note for those who don't me and took any of this seriously: The above was written for comedic purposes and in no way reflects the true character of my counselor. While I really did reunite with my counselor and friend from ******, everything apart from the fact that ****** is a satanic worshiping gulag camp is false. My counselor at camp was (and is) a truly wonderful guy. He invited me over for Shabbos meals and I look forward to getting to know him even better.