Between 1946 and 1954, Lev Mishchenko and Svetlana Ivanova, two young Russian lovers living under Stalin, sent each other 1,246 letters. That, in itself, wouldn’t be all that remarkable except for the fact that Lev was imprisoned in the Gulag the whole time.
So they had to sneak their correspondence around guards and censors—and they wrote as if the word “love” itself was forbidden, almost never using it. They developed their own private language instead:
Lev: When I see my name on the envelope and it’s written in your hand, I always feel the same sensation—a mixture of disbelief, astonishment, joy and certainty—when I realize that it really is for me—and really hers. Yours, that is. There’s no point to this confession—and now I’m afraid that, having thought about it logically, you’ll start to send me empty envelopes.
Svetlana [at the end of a long letter]: The point of all this is that I want to tell you just three words—two of them are pronouns and the third is a verb (to be read in all the tenses simultaneously: past, present and future).
That’s from Michael Scammell’s review of Orlando Figes’ Just Send Me Word: A True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag.