Headline, May 22 2019/ ''' '' SOVIET'S YOUNG HEROES '' ''' : STUDENTS



THEY LIVED AND SOME SURVIVED THOSE TERRIBLE TIMES : ''all that is left now is to be kind to each other,'' his step grandmother said.

MORE THAN A RETELLING OF VASSILY'S story, ''Young Heroes,'' is a memoir of Halberstadt's  family and the country where he was born.

A loving and mournful account that's also skeptical, surprising and often very funny. He recreated the lives of his parents and grandparents, tracing their experiences in order to better understand his own.

His father, born in 1945, was the privileged child of a K.G.B. official and a fashion designer, benefiting from a system that revolved around connections but chafing at the state-sponsored indoctrination at his school.

He eventually became a fervent anti Communist and a black marketeer, trading American pop -cultural contraband and turning the family's Moscow apartment into a ''shrine to the West,'' filled with jazz records and ''an ocean of blue denim.''

Halberstadt's mother was the daughter of a Lithuanian Jews, survivors of the Nazi occupation that killed 95 percent of Lithuania's Jewish population.

A THREAD THAT runs through Halberstadt's book is the inheritance of trauma - how ''the past lives on not only in our memories but in every cell of our bodies,'' another version of the historical record that gets inscribed into our genetic code.

Those parts of the book are elegantly delineated, but it's the unexpected specificity of Halberstadt's  observations that ultimately makes this memoir as lush and moving as it is......

When the poet Osip Mandelstam was arrested by the Soviet secret police in the 1930s, he was taken to the notorious Lubyanka prison for interrogation.

He drew a distinction between the guards ''on the outside'' - village youth doing terrible things out of a dim sense of duty - and the interrogators ''on the inside,'' who seemed like specialists in cruelty.

''To do that job, you have to have a particular vocation,'' Mandelstam said. ''No ordinary man could stand it.''

It's an observation that Alex Halberstadt forced himself to keep in mind when meeting with his paternal grandfather, Vassily, who worked in Lubyanka for several years before becoming one of Stalin bodyguards.

Halberstadt considered his grandfather, who was a member of Stalin's security detail for more than a decade, to be ''the moral equal of a Gestapo officer.''

Vassily survived countless rounds of purges and recriminations to live into his 90s - no small feat for anyone so entwined in the paranoid politics of the Soviet state.

In ''Young Heroes of the Soviet, Union,'' Halberstadt recalls travelling from his home in New York  to Ukraine in 2004, to meet his nonagenarian grandfather for the first time since Halberstadt was an infant. [Helberstadt had left the Soviet Union with his mother and her parents in 1980, when he was 10.]

Vassily turned out to be intermittently candid but mostly evasive. Halberstadt corroborated what he could of Vassily's few recollections with other accounts, thinking that he would write about his grandfather's experience:

''Trying to piece together and weigh his motives,'' before realizing he was on to something else -something at once more capacious and and intimate than what he originally had in mind.

''This, I understood finally, was history; not the ordered narrative of books but an affliction that spread from parent to child, sister to brother, husband to wife.''

This memoir suggests that Halberstadt also understands the appeal of forgetfulness, when a historical burden is so suffocating that it can feel impossible to move on.

''We lived in terrible times,'' his step-grandmother told him. ''All that is left now is to be kind to each other.''

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Great Historic Book Reviews, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Jennifer Szalai.

With respectful dedication to the Leaders, Grandparents, Parents, Students, Professors and Teachers of Russia and then the world.

See Ya all  prepare and register for  Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twiiter - !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011:

''' All Stars '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!