NPR

Amid 'Quiet Rehabilitation Of Stalin,' Some Russians Honor The Memory Of His Victims

A civic initiative is commemorating those who were murdered under the rule of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, whom many Russians now admire for defeating Nazi Germany and making his nation a superpower.
Ksenia Polunina (3rd right, wearing brown coat) visits her childhood apartment building in Moscow as a plaque memorializing her father is hung there. Her father Sergei Polunin was a scientist who was taken away from this building on a February night in 1938 — and then shot by Josef Stalin's secret police. Source: Lucian Kim

On a recent Sunday morning at 11 o'clock, a dozen people, mostly elderly, gathered in front of an elegant apartment building on a sun-dappled street in central Moscow.

Ksenia Polunina stepped up to remember her father Sergei Polunin, a scientist who was hauled from the building, her childhood home, on a February night in 1938 — and then shot by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's secret police.

"I was seven years old. Everybody thought that I was sleeping, but I heard everything," Polunina told the small crowd. "He came to my bed, made the sign of the cross and kissed me. I pretended that I was asleep."

Polunina leaned on her cane

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