New at Return to the Gulag—Jon Utley's search for his father

Jon Utley was two years old in Moscow when his father, Arcadi Berdichevsky, a Russian trade official, was sent to a labor camp by the Soviet secret police. His mother, Freda Utley, escaped with Jon to England and then to America.

In 2004 and 2006, Utley, a well-known journalist, embarked upon a search to learn of his father's fate. This documentary traces Utley's journey through former labor camps and cities in northern Russia and his final uncovering of the horrible truth at the dreaded camp city of Vorkuta within the Artic Circle.

Directed by John J. Michalczyk, Return the Gulag is a small but revealing window into Russia's turbulent 1930s. is proud to present this Etoile Production, which was funded by The Freda Utley Foundation and the Jacques Salmanowitz Program For Moral Courage in Film at Boston College. Thanks also to the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation.

For more information about the documentary, visit

For more links and related articles and videos (including Utley's appearance on the Talk Show), go here.

For a DVD version of this program ($15 donation, plus shipping), please go to the website of The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation or email

Approximately 28 minutes. ©2008 The Freda Utley Foundation.

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  • Joe Kristan||

    Fascinating links. Note how even after all these years they still insist on protecting the stool pigeons who earned their living informing on (and so killing) their fellow zeks; one of the conditions of access to the NKVD files was "not looking, for instance, into sealed envelopes containing witnesses' testimonies."

    Witnesses, of course, meaning "stool pigeons."

  • A T||

    What music is that? Very inspiring.

  • Lester Hunt||

    Wow. Powerful stuff. Bravissimo to Reason TV for presenting it.

  • Lester Hunt||

    It's ironic that one of the pieces of music they use is the Second Symphony of Aram Khachaturian, who was an ardent Stalinist. Works beautifully, though.

  • ||

    Why don't we hear more about this kind of stuff. We hear a lot about the Holocaust (as we should), but most of the Soviet stories seem to have dropped into the memory hole.

    Wouldn't this make a great movie?

  • JW Gacy||

    Que? No podcast?

    Yeah, yeah. I'm sure there are some copyright issues there. "We don't want to be sued out of existence. Boo hoo." Whateva.

  • ||

    >>most of the Soviet stories seem to have dropped into the memory hole

    A couple of reasons: first, former members of the KBG, the successor to the NKVD, run Russia to this very day, and still wield a lot of political power around the world.

    And Communism, unlike Nazism, still holds an odd fascination to large numbers of modern leftists, and they too wield a lot of political power around the world. World Can't Wait and International ANSWER are relatively popular, compared to, say, some modern Nazi group. Even if both admire murder and its practitioners.

  • ||

    There is alas another reason. As Solzhenitsyn and others have documented, a disturbingly large proportion of the people who ran the Gulag were ethnic Jews who had rejected Judaism as a religion, but who had embraced Communism and Socialism. (It was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and, no, it wasn't all Jews vs. all Russians, and it most assuredly was not religious Jews, but there were disproportions.)Openly discussing this history in the U.S. is, to put it mildly, difficult. Solzhenitsyn's two volume history of the relations between Jews and Russians has yet to be published in English. There were also many embarassing links across the Atlantic in those days. Look up the books Engineering Communism and Roots of Radicalism.

  • ||

    I saw an advance review DVD copy of this film over a year ago. I have great praise for the work. It's well worth viewing.

  • ||

    Interesting that his mother was working to implement the Soviet-style socialist system in England. This gives one pause, shortly before darker thoughts occur. Is there no learning from experience that human nature is not infinitely malleable? That the utopia becomes the gulag? That one's ancestors had evolved some semblance of societal wisdom? Perhaps not.

  • ||

    Solzhenitsyn mentioned that a lot of the people the commies killed were commies themselves. Too bad Utley's parents didn't stay in England.


  • ||

    Very moving story. My father was in the Gulag from 1945-1949 as a German POW. The stories he told us when he came back were harrowing. But as a teenager I wasn't too interested. I wish I had asked more questions. The one overriding thing he impressed upon me was that "Communism does not work and it is a fraud". He was right. I hope we don't slide into this abyss.

  • Billy Beck||

    "This isn't right:

    Everybody knows of Auschwitz and Belsen. Nobody knows of Vorkuta and Solovetsky.

    Everybody knows of Himmler and Eichmann. Nobody knows of Yezhov and Dzerzhinsky."

    (Martin Amis -- "Koba The Dread: Laughter And The Twenty Million", 2002, p. 257)

  • ||

    I see that W. George Krasnov is described in superscript in the video as a "Russian Ex-Patriot". Good God. I've come to expect such profoundly cretinous performance from the sadly fallen former first-line publications such as "Newsweek" and even "New York Times". But not from this institution, for whom the life of the mind and rational discourse is the very purpose of its existence. Et tu,

  • ||

    Marxist-Leninist ideology has shown its historical truth. Communism's long march into the night is pure & absolute EVIL. The fact remains that the 20th century has out done its predecessors in its bloodthirstiness. Communists & its cousin the Nazi Party ("The National Socialist German Workers' Party") have oppressed & destroyed human endeavors. Moreover, Communism has colonized countries with a culture of mass violence deeply rooted in its ideology.

    Communist regimes/ parties & their policies despise the free market of ideas, FREEDOM! It has committed a multitude of crimes against human beings, world civilizations & national cultures. Over 150 million deaths & still counting!

    It's really appalling!!!

    Remember Communism crimes effectively shut the door on Utopia; yet Leftists & liberals that control the avenues of communication keep the true nature of its evil almost concealed. Look & read the scholarly reports! "The fact that so many people 'swallowed' [the Great Terror] hook, line and sinker was probably one of the reasons that the Terror succeeded so well." --Robert Conquest, 1968


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