This slim book by Lydia Chukovskaya is a must read if you’re interested in Russian/Soviet history. It reminded me a bit of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, except that instead of the prisoner’s point of view, we get the view of the mothers and wives of the falsely imprisoned.
At the beginning of the book, Sofia is happily working as the supervising typist for a government publishing house. Her son Kolya is deeply committed to the Soviet party and is studying engineering. Then everything slowly goes downhill and ‘The Great Purge‘ begins. People start disappearing. Masses of people. Multitudes of women stand in line each day in front of government offices to determine the fate of their loved ones. All are convinced it is only a big mistake, but then they themselves are deported.
This book was actually written during the time of the purges (1937-1938), but it was hidden for several years for obvious reasons and then almost published in the Soviet Union in the early sixties. Political change occurred again, and it wasn’t published in Chukovskaya’s home country, but it was published in France and in the United States. The book was finally published in the Soviet Union in 1988.
I almost never read forewords, author’s notes, or afterwords, but I did in this case because I was fascinated by the author’s own struggle to get the book published. As I said, a must read for Russian history enthusiasts.
“There’s only one thing I want, just one thing I’m waiting for: to see my book published in the Soviet Union. In my own country. In Sofia Petrovna’s country. I have been waiting patiently for thirty-four years.
There is but one tribunal to which I wish to offer my novella: that of my countrymen, young and old, particularly the old, those who lived through the same thing which befell me and that woman so different from me whom I chose as the heroine of my narrative — Sofia Petrovna, one of thousands I saw all about me.“
1967 for the English translation, 120 pp.