Aria of the Doomed
Weekly, Prime Time
Better not to be born at all than to be born here
Olga and Sofia, wives of ‘betrayers of the nation’, find love, jealousy and conflict among a diverse group of inmates in a Soviet labor camp and survive years of hardship to start new lives.
Some 8,000 women, wives of ‘betrayers of the nation’, were imprisoned in the notorious Stalinist labor camp known as ALGIR between 1938-1953. The dramatic and moving stories of their lives before their arrest and in the camp are told in the 12 episodes of the series.
Alongside the main characters Olga and Sofia, other prisoners in the camp in Kazakhstan include the young starlet Lara, who paid the price for denouncing another, the thief Aglaya, communist Emma, orthodox nun Serafima and Hanna, a German woman fleeing the Nazis.
Olga is arrested on her daughter’s 5th birthday. On her way to the camp she meets her opera star idol Sofia, arrested after denunciation by her husband’s young lover Lara. Olga becomes close to the camp’s kind security chief Glotov after they both help Kazakh girl Demesh escape.
Sofia is astonished when Lara herself is imprisoned as a terrorist. Her hate for Lara dissolves when she hears she is pregnant by Sofia’s late husband. Sofia allows Lara to take her place in a music group touring labor camps, but Lara reveals in the end her pregnancy was not real.
Sofia becomes involved in romance with a thief named Fedya, who was transferred to the camp to play accordion and accompany Sofia’s singing. Fedya’s old flame Aglaya attacks Sofia out of jealousy. But any chances of love blossoming for Sofia are dashed when guards kill Aglaya and Fedya.
Meanwhile Olga’s relationship with Glotov develops. Olga returns his feelings, sure that her husband Kostya is dead. But it turns out that he is alive. When he discovers Olga had an affair with a guard, he returns to Moscow alone. Olga is abandoned when Glotov is enlisted to fight in World War Two.
Sofia ends up in a hospital after she is assaulted by other inmates and there she meets Doctor Rais, who wants to help her. He is set to leave but they soon fall in love. He tries to get work for Sofia in the hospital, but she is the victim of an attempted rape by the cruel guard Savva.
When Doctor Rais attacks Savva, nearly killing him, he and Sofia must flee the camp together. They are helped by a Kazakh family of lepers and escape. They find their way to the doctor’s friends and start a new life.
On Olga’s release she plans to get her daughter from the orphanage. Before leaving, she snatches from the camp chief’s home the doll she was supposed to give her daughter for her birthday. When a child at the orphanage rushes to get the doll, Olga realizes it is not her daughter. But when the official asks if this is her daughter, Olga lies: “Yes, she is mine.”