Written by author and film director Imbi Paju, Memories Denied is an impressionist work of art, which creates its images by abandoning the traditional rules and techniques of historical writing, instead using psychology, psychoanalysis, belletristics, philosophy, historical facts, personal memories of her countrymen, and the recollections of those close to her. It succeeds in creating an image of what a violent regime can do to people, showing the evil that man inflicts on man when the darkness lurking within his soul seizes power and when the political atmosphere fosters this kind of violence, and showing how a dictatorial regime manipulates remembering in order to hide its criminal actions.
The narrative emerges from Estonia’s experience, from the author’s own family story and personal childhood memories. In her work, Paju is not saying “never again!” On the contrary, the book tells us that events such as these might well happen again. If we make no attempt to keep remembering, we shall never escape the consequences. This book explains how violent regimes founded on totalitarian philosophies persuade people to follow them, thereby stripping them of all their humanity.
The early 1940s saw the immediate imposition of the Russian SSR Criminal Code, which defined the “objective enemy”– a bandit, an enemy of the people, a kulak, an undesirable element, a hostile nation. According to the renowned Gulag researcher Anne Applebaum, every memoir, every document on the history of the Gulag is but a fragment of the puzzle, a fraction of the explanation. Without these pieces, we might wake up one day not knowing who we are. And without these pieces, words such as “human rights”, “compassion” and “trust” will become mere clichés.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia