Saturday, June 27, 2009

Jonathan Brent

Here's a 'photograph of words' from Jonathan Brent's book "Inside the Stalin Archives." He's writing about today in the former Soviet Union: 

"Both the drive toward the future and the pull of the past can be observed on every street corner - for each "answering blow" and New Russian Vogue there is a shapeless babushka, an old grandmother, twig broom in hand and stockings rolled up to her knees."

That's why I want to be a writer - to be able to say what a photograph only suggests.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Reading "Inside the Stalin Archives" (but outside)

Meandering right along. Reading "Inside the Stalin Archives" by Jonathan Brent right now. He might be a Yale academic but he writes using all his senses. The smells, sounds, tastes, sights and textures of Moscow are so vivid. No ivory tower dryness here. 

When I visited the Comuunist Party archives in Zhitomir back in '04 I was struck with how cold, drab and neglected things were. The atmosphere was very well suited to the ghosts of the past.

As I blog, the sun is shining, the birds are twittering, and the grass is growing. Must get out there and indulge. Summer in Winnipeg has arrived! And if I'm not quick, it'll be gone.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Scent of lilacs

My kids used to love puzzles - especially the ones where you had to find what was different in two seemingly the same pictures. I wonder if it would work to do a reverse puzzle of some sort - one where you find the similarities?

What made me muse about this was seeing the poppies resurface in my yard and I thought about the poppies over in Ukraine. There are so many similarities between 1930s USSR and 2009 Canada. Poppies for one. Lilacs, too. Irises. Sweet-smelling apple blossoms. Proud, tenacious yellow dandelions. 

I think my grandparents would have liked it over here. Many did leave the USSR. But after 1928, that opportunity for spring in a new country faded.

June 4th, 1937. Eduard Ristau is arrested at #66 Andriivska Street. His charge? National fascist work and propaganda against the Soviet government. I visited the place where the house once stood. Lilacs were blooming like crazy - even in 1937 - the year of the Great Terror - the scent of lilacs was in the air.