Sunday, November 11, 2012
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Sunday, July 8, 2012
The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was a gift - not sure I would have picked it up on my own. However, I did enjoy it very much. There was a touch of Marilyn French in there - one of my all time favorite authors.
It's a spiritual book. I found myself copying out the forty rules as a sort of life-guide. It's not meant to be a fast read. Highly recommended. I'll have to read her other work, too.
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Sunday, July 1, 2012
Canada is my home because my parents chose to move and start their new family here. They never took its gracious compassion to the homeless for granted. I hope Canada continues to be a refuge for the homeless - a place with room for families to grow.
I saw the EuroCup Final on TV this afternoon. My kids didn't care to watch because Germany had been eliminated. On the one hand, I think my dad would be proud of that German gene in his grandkids, but on the other hand, he'd have happily watched Spain beat Italy in Kyiv. A soccer match is so much better than war.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Sunday, April 29, 2012
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was a real page turner. It's a memoir of a nine-year-old Dutch girl's survival during WWII in Sumatra, Indonesia. I had no idea that Dutch civilians lost their freedom over there. But then, I had no idea that the Dutch even had their people in Sumatra. The book is published by iUniverse and is very well written.
For me, even more interesting than the historical setting, is the psychological tension between mother and daughter. What's needed is a follow-up. How did those horrible years affect the children as they became adults?
A memoir doesn't get better than this. Highly recommended. Here's a youtube clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URZfwU...
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Sunday, April 8, 2012
Sunday, March 25, 2012
My grandfather was considered a class one, “counter-revolutionary” kulak. In 1930, he was arrested and his family forced to leave his 17 hectare farm so that it could become part of a collective – or – kolkchoz. Good bye, kulak.
(image from /www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/oleg-pavlov/down-on-farm-history-lesson-in-kazan)
By the spring of 1931 – when his exiled children returned, motherless, from Siberia – his windmill was gone and strangers lived in the family house. When I visited the area in 2004, an old local woman told me that she remembered the dismantling of the windmill. The wood was used to build the new collective manager’s office. Farming became a complicated bureaucracy - it was all about the number crunching.
First class kulaks were not invited to work on the collectives. But all the others were pressured into joining. Workers ( proletariats) from the city factories were even sent out into the countryside to apply pressure tactics to 'encourage' them. Collective workers were called kolkchozniks (a Russian, not Ukrainian word). No one was happy.
Food production fell, while demand increased. This was the setting that led to the horrific Holodomor – death by starvation – in 1932/33. Then in 1933 the rules changed so that the workers could actually share in the profit of a collective. Before this, there had been no incentive to work.
As I try to learn more about life on a kolkchoz – I’m now aware that there’s a huge difference between the early collectives, and the later ones. But, the collective way of farming was never as successful as the western world's farms.
My mother and family lived through the confusing early years (1929 – 1933) where that chaos cost many lives and much suffering. Later, by the spring of 1933, the mass deportations and arrests stopped. By then, my mom was out of the country. My grandfather, however, stayed behind and was eventually a victim of the insanity of the Great Terror (1937/8).
Another five years go by, and the Germans invade. The collective workers are eager to switch back to the private farming of the pre-First Five Year Plan. They see the Nazis as an improvement to Stalin. While the Germans do announce in March of 1942 that collective farming will end, and that the land will be re-distributed – this privilege is given only to ethnic Germans. Food that is grown and harvested by the Ukrainian women is confiscated to feed the German soldiers.
One of these soldiers might have been my father – a German from Schleswig-Holstein – who is sent to the Eastern front in 1944. Of course, he had no idea back then, that he would eventually marry a daughter of a kulak. He was married to someone else then, but I’m getting way off track.
Back to the collective farms. The first ones were formed as early as 1919, and became the norm during the dekulakization project after 1929. Today, in 2012, some of them are still around- lasting longer than the Soviet regime. From what I gather, while many collectives went bankrupt after the government stopped paying wages, and providing supplies – others have continued – with slight changes.
It’s all rather confusing. Perhaps things will end up like here in North America with big business taking over. However, I did read that family-sized gardens contribute a lot to the post-Soviet dinner tables. The kulak spirit lives on.
Yes, I'm back in the world of 1931, trying to imagine and re-create my mother's lost childhood.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Saturday, March 3, 2012
If you’ve browsed through my blog, you might know that I’ve been exploring my mom’s life (1919-2011). My first book, The Kulak’s Daughter, was set in a part of the former Soviet Union known as Volhynia. This area is now part of the independent country called Ukraine.
If you look at this map (Creative Commons, free download) - you can see that East Prussia is separated from the rest of Germany. Poland divides the two parts of Germany. This is why Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. This Weimar Republic - created after WWI - is the predecessor of the fatal Third Reich.
In this brewing kettle of trouble, my orphaned kulak mother spent her confusing teenaged years.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Sunday, February 19, 2012
I've just finished reading another German YA novel. This one, again by Gudrun Pausewang, was first published in 1978. Auf Einem Langen Weg has not been translated to English (as far as I can tell.)
Monday, February 6, 2012
I should mention that my publisher, Blooming Tree Press - down in Austin, Texas - has ceased to exist. This means of course, that my book - The Kulak's Daughter - is no longer available.