Estonian artist Joann Saarniit (1909–1984) was drafted into the Red Army in July 1941. That same autumn, the bulk of the drafted were sent to work battalions, where 12,840 out of 32,100 men died. Hence, it was essentially a forced labour camp. Of the men who eventually joined the front, many ran over to the German side during the battles held under Velikiye Luki in the closing of 1942. The surrounded city fell to the Russians, which is how the Red Army found several hundred Estonians who had been sentenced to forced labour for desertion. Saarniit started serving his 15-year sentence in a military unit, where his tasks included collecting corpses on the front and burning them, carrying equipment, clearing debris, and similar work
In 1943, Saarniit and four other men managed to cross the front line for the second time, and this time reach the free world. Saarniit turned his memoirs of war into a book and a series of paintings, a selection of which is displayed in the KGB Prison Cells.