«Mnesikakein» («recall the evil») – this expression is often used in literature discussing the questions of memory and overcoming collective trauma and grief. It has a special meaning: it is forbidden to mention publicly the evil and suffering caused by one side to another.
In this project, it seems most appropriate to render this phrase in just one word: “recall-the-evil.” It is not entirely clear after all, whether it is “recall the evil,” meaning that it is crucial not to forget in order not to repeat it, or “to recall (is) evil”, that is, to forget in order to prevent it from happening again.
Mekhrenlag is the railroad branch line “Puksa—Ozero Dal’nee” in Arkhangelsk Oblast in Russia consisting of 11 stations. It was built by the prisoners of the Gulag system in 1930s. Almost every station had its own camp and settlement. The main station was the Puksoozero settlement, which had a functioning cellulose factory producing gunpowder. In the early 90s all camps were eliminated, the convicts were resettled, and the factory was shut down. The railroad of this branch was disassembled by the locals and sold as scrap, while the abandoned buildings of the camps, train stations, and other buildings were deteriorating on their own. Puksoozero remained the only populated place, where, in addition to the factory, during the Soviet times there were a cultural center, school, and hotel. Now all of them are also in ruins, and the settlement is practically deserted.
The way down this no longer existing railroad was meant to be “the way of memory” – to see how far I would be able to get and what I would manage to see under meter-deep snow of the vast, uninhabited forest. Ideally, I should get to the end. However, the season and the weather only allowed me to go halfway. Actually, the weather became my main interlocutor on this quest. The moment you set off, the rain or blizzard start. On top of that, the temperature was rising during the day, making it significantly more difficult to move forward: the snow was getting soft and impassable. It seemed as if the weather, just like dogs, was protecting those abandoned “memorials.”