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Survival as Victory

Survival as Victory

Ukrainian Women in the Gulag

Oksana Kis

Translated by Lidia Wolanskyj

ISBN 9780674258280

Publication date: 03/02/2021

Of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian women were sentenced to the Gulag in the 1940s and 1950s, only half survived. In Survival as Victory, Oksana Kis has produced the first anthropological study of daily life in the Soviet forced labor camps as experienced by Ukrainian women prisoners.

Based on the written memoirs, autobiographies, and oral histories of over 150 survivors, this book fills a lacuna in the scholarship regarding Ukrainian experience. Kis details the women’s resistance to the brutality of camp conditions not only through the preservation of customs and traditions from everyday home life, but also through the frequent elision of regional and confessional differences. Following the groundbreaking work of Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History (2003), this book is a must-read for anyone interested in gendered strategies of survival, accommodation, and resistance to the dehumanizing effects of the Gulag.


  • Based on more than 150 memoirs and testimonies, Oksana Kis’s Survival as Victory provides a subtle and nuanced portrait of Ukrainian women prisoners in the Gulag. Kis is not afraid to tackle all of the aspects of life in the camps, from pregnancy and motherhood to rape and torture, showing how women brought traditionally ‘female’ habits and customs from home into the camps, effectively creating a counterculture to the brutal regime. Survival as Victory is a must-read for students of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Ukraine, as well as for anyone interested in moving stories of real women’s lives.

    —Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag: A History


  • 2021, Winner of the Translation Book Award


  • Oksana Kis is Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Book Details

  • 652 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute