Frostbite was a real danger for us while we were transported, but it decreased after we arrived at the gulag. However, we had to watch it when we touched the door knob. If we touched it with a bare hand, the fingers were stuck onto the cold knob. If we tried to remove the finger, the skin was quickly peeled. It happened due to the instantaneous freezing of the skin.
The real challenge in the gulag was the bathroom. We were put into the extreme cold because the bathroom was outside. When we urinated, the steaming liquid instantaneously froze as soon as it reached the ground. It did not even have a chance to splash. Such yellow ice kept accumulating. When we could not leave it any longer, we cracked such yellow ice with an iron stick, scooped it up with a spade, and put it on a sled in order to throw it away in the river.
Feces were also a problem, but worse. The big pot only with low partitions was without any door. Inside the pot, frozen feces soon began to accumulate and became like a tower. It almost hurt our asses. We had to break down such tower of feces with iron sticks or sometimes with a wooden hammer so that we could throw it away in the river. In the river, those yellow ice particles were piled up like a mountain. It did not smell at all, but if such a particle touched our clothes, it was terrible because it started to smell badly as it melted with our body temperature.
This yellow river melted in the spring, and went into the Kama river and the Volga river. The big rivers in the huge land of Siberia were perhaps not affected by such things as the excrement of humans.
The snow stayed there until spring. After sleds and people went back and forth on the surface, it became like ice. The surface was so hard that the blade of the skate had a hard time sliding.
Soviet females wore something really thin like in the summer time inside their shuba (thick jacket with animal fur.) Thirty minutes or one hour of errands in the neighborhood or visiting friends was no problem. They were really used to the cold weather. Soviet soldiers also did not wear too much underneath their simple winter coat. They were only wearing military attire suitable for summer: shirts and pants without wearing underware.
There were many Soviets who did not even wipe after defecating. My comrades who were in the washing section said they did not want to wash their pants because they often found feces on it.
The Soviets are probably tough in the cold weather because they are used to it. I also think their food must be pretty rich to give them endurance in such difficult weather. I did not have a chance to look at their everyday meals though.