Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Lives, One Russia

I have had this book on my bookshelf for so long I don't even remember where or when I got it.  As a child of the Cold War I was always fascinated by US-Soviet relations, so much so that when I went to college I majored in Russian and spent a semester in Moscow.  It was in the fall of 1994 and an amazing experience.  It was probably some time after returning from my time abroad that I found this book in a bargain bookstore.  I finally read it last week when I had run out of other books to read, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

It's a true story of a US News & World Report journalist - Nicholas Daniloff - who is stationed in Moscow.  Daniloff is an American citizen of Russian descent.  Towards the end of his posting there he is arrested by the KGB and imprisoned in the infamous Lefortovo prison.  While in the Soviet Union Daniloff researched his family history.  One of his ancestors Alexander Frolov was a Decembrist and was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.  The book alternates between Nicholas' experiences and Frolov's story. I don't usually read a lot of non-fiction as I find it can be very dry and tedious.  This was not.  It was engaging and the back and forth between the two men's stories and some parallel experiences worked well.  There were some passages that were difficult to read due to the harsh realities of their stories, but that is a testament to how well this was written. 

It's no spoiler to say that Nicholas did get out of Lefortovo - otherwise he obviously wouldn't have been able to publish the book.  Even knowing that I felt myself worrying about him as I was reading it and wondering if he would get out.  I'm not sure how easy this book is to find these days as it was published in 1988, but I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about the Cold War. 

1 comment:

  1. Always looking for a good book! Sounds like one I would like.


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