Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: Christened with Crosses by Eduard Kochergin

Title: Christened with Crosses
Author: Eduard Kochergin
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Glagoslav Publications
Publish Date: July 21, 2012
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a non-fiction fan.
  • You're a memoir fan.
  • You like survival stories.
What's the Story?:

From "While the mothers in Siberia wait for their soldier sons to return from the war in the west in 1945, the eight year old Eduard secretly jumps on board the trains heading in the opposite direction, heading west, towards Leningrad. Placed in a Siberian orphanage as a child because his parents were arrested as public enemies there is only one thing he wants: to go back home to Leningrad and to find his mother again. It is not only his desperate courage and his youthful agility that ensure his survival, it is also his artistic talent. With his agile fingers the boy is able to bend wire in the shape of profiles of Lenin and Stalin, as if in silhouette. He uses them to cheer up the invalid war veterans on the train stations returning from the front, who then give him a piece of bread, a bowl of soup and who, in a spirit of comradeship, warn him of the railway police and the secret service henchmen wanting to send the runaway back to the orphanage.

Eduard spends more than six years on the run, experiencing close encounters with post-war Russia where life and fate have become synonyms. He encounters other stowaways, professional beggars, soldiers returning from the war and wartime profiteers, the mothers of soldiers and war invalids, Chinese from the Ural, Cossacks dealing in hashish, Bashkir Estonians, Russian penal colony escapees and, time and again, orphanage directors. In order to survive the winter he often registered himself voluntarily in the next orphanage, each one always a little closer to the West, running away again before the servants of the Stalinist state are able to send him back to Siberia.

The memoirs of an old man who, as a boy, learnt to find his way between extortionate state control and marauding banditry, the two poles that characterise Russia to this day. A story about the awakening of artistic talent under highly unusual Russian circumstances."

My Two Cents:

I was very excited to read this book. I love books about survival stories and it's even better when they are non-fiction survival stories. "Christened with Crosses" is just the sort of survival story that I like. At a very young age, the main character is forced to make his way across Russia as a young child. There are probably not many people in the world who would have been able to make that same journey and thrive the way that he was able to thrive. It was truly amazing.

The story takes place during the 1940s, which if you know anything about the Soviet Union during that time, you know that it was not the kind of place you would like to be if you were on the wrong side of the government. By being a veritable orphan, the author is just that. He escapes in and out of different orphanages. Orphanages were not places you wanted to be in the Soviet Union. The author vividly describes some of the things that happened to him and those he knew and some of it was definitely hard to read.

Through this book, we get to learn a lot of the stories of different people in the Soviet Union. I think that because the author is Polish, he has an especially interesting story. He is in a country where at first, he really doesn't even know the language of the places where he is staying. Language, we know, is an integral part of being able to get along in the world. The author comes across so many different people from different walks of life. He tells not only his story but many of their stories too. Some are happy stories. Some are sad stories. Everyone has been affected by the new reality of the Soviet Union during the end of WWII.

Bottom line: this book is often hard to read because of the hardship but it is worth the read.



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