Notes From HellNotes From Hell by Nikolay Yordanov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“We heard our names then a word we were already familiar with,’Byulada.’ Death.

This true tale of horror that begins with the two months of constant torture followed by the subsequent eight years of imprisonment is told in a series of nightmarish snapshots by one of the people who would know the story best: Vayla Chervenyashka, one of the six Bulgarians falsely found guilty in Libya for injecting children with HIV.

“This is Libya, not Bulgaria; there is no ambassador for you.”

At the height of an HIV epidemic in a Libyan children’s hospital in the late 90s, Muammar al-Gaddafi ‘s bloodstained regime would toss 7 hospital workers to his poorly educated subjects as a government conspiracy to avoid public responsibility. The claims would range from injectioning children with HIV to CIA involvement to sex scandals between those accused with each accusation being more surreal than the last.

“It seems only as though the police only detained people from countries that didn’t care for its citizens abroad.”

And worst yet, political upheaval and a negligent government at home during the beginning of this farce those accused were left to face their tormentors alone as torture and humiliation progressed from the sadistic to the life threatening.

“Eventually one loses a sense of time, place, of everything. And most of all the will to live.”

Valya takes us through the initial kidnapping of dozens of nurses and doctors, through the torture of those whose government did not lay claim to them, to beginnings of international involvement, into the courtrooms of the various circus trials, how the world support gave the falsely imprisoned a reason to hope, and finally how the EU’s involvement got them home.

“If it wasn’t for Nasya, this meeting never would have happened. After she ‘confessed,’ she slit her wrists.”

Through her eyes we only begin to understanding how harrowing the months of torture

“The most agonizing pain boazed through my body and in an instant I believes I was in hell. I was in hell and hell was in me.”

and years of imprisonment and false promises

“Despite having been forcibly removed from our loves ones and inhumanely tortured, what destroyed us was the lack of support from fellow Bulgarians.”

slowly eroded these 5 women and 1 man’s will to live.

Told like a sort of biographical diary, I was able to get a real feel for the personalities of each of the captives and how the fates of these strangers would intertwine to create one of the most public confirmations of unhumane abuse and injustice the world saw in the early 21st century.

“They were made to rehearse their confessions, sometimes at gunpoint. For every wrong answer or discrepancy, further torture ensued.”

In an account that is both poignant and standoffish, understanding and unforgiving I was moved at the plight of the six and the other Bulgarian prisoners.

“How easy it is to write about ut now, but how hard it was to endure.”

I found myself glued to the pages as Vayla struggled with making peace with the past and being drug back down into it. Her voice clearly comes through from the disbelief at the first round of torture, to the inner struggles against those who confessed, to her joy at finally finding the support so long denied to them.

I highly recommend this book to those interested in first hand rehashes, world politics, or the ever growing disparity between public, political, and private justice.