Just emailed Oleg Atbashian to tell him I finished reading his autobiographical tome, Hotel USSR, and am now going through it a second time to make notes for use in my review of it here, which I should have up probably in another week, maybe two. And MAN ALIVE, but this book is powerful indeed! It’s written in a straightforward, matter-of-fact style, which only serves to intensify the impact of the relentless brutality and inhumanity chronicled therein.
I’ve been reading and excerpting Oleg’s People’s Cube humor blog for years now, and never realized that he grew up in the Ukraine, and was born the same year I was. Our upbringing and youthful experience as Children of the 60s and 70s couldn’t have been more different, alas for him.
No matter how well-informed you might be, how carefully and thoroughly you’ve educated yourself about what life might be like under full-bore totalitarian tyranny, Oleg’s story comes at you like a sharp punch in the gut. As far along the same dismal road as the US has come, let me assure you that we have no idea what it was like for the victims of the heartless thuggery and oppression that was simply the stuff of everyday existence in the Soviet Union. It’s monstrous, no more nor less. How people like Oleg managed to get through it all with their souls and spirits still relatively intact and functioning is far beyond my ken.
Yet more baffling, and infuriating, is our domestic Useful Idiots who continue to this day to lobby hard for a Made In America emulation of this abominable regime. The clueless dolts know not what they wish for, a truth that Hotel Russia makes perfectly clear. God forbid that they should ever get their way. Every last one of them should be forced to read it, with a gun at their heads if need be.
More to come as and when, folks.
I’ll have to get the book, look forward to your review.
It’s not remotely possible for us, having lived in near total freedom, to understand what it was like growing up behind the Iron Curtain.
I’ll make a couple recommendations, both fiction, but are universally acclaimed, and my long ago Russian secretary* approved heartily.
1st, is Child 44, Tom Smith – an excellent portrayal of life behind the Iron Curtain
2nd, Russka: The Novel of Russia, Edward Rutherfurd – a history lesson from year zero.
Those are lesser known than Pasternak, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, but are there equal IMO.
Now for a Ukraine story. My first trip there, each day the factory would send us out for lunch, typically myself and my technician and 2-3 of the factory engineers. One day the plant engineer, a fellow roughly my age, 60ish at the time, asked if he could take me to lunch just the two of us. I accepted of course and off we went. He told me the story’s of growing up as a hostage. His #1 reason for inviting me by ourselves, he wanted to thank me for the Voice of America broadcasts. His father was an electrical engineer and they built their own shortwave receiver. At night they would go into the attic and listen to VOA and the BBC broadcasts, broadcasts that gave them hope. In spite of the fact that they were now free, he was afraid, afraid that someday the russians would be back.
*As in many years ago now. She and her husband escaped prior to the wall coming down.