A Red Boyhood
Growing Up Under Stalin
Publication Year: 2008
Many children growing up in the Soviet Union before World War II knew the meaning of deprivation and dread. But for the son of an “enemy of the people,” those apprehensions were especially compounded.
When the secret police came for his father in 1938, ten-year-old Anatole Konstantin saw his family plunged into a morass of fear. His memoir of growing up in Stalinist Russia re-creates in vivid detail the daily trials of people trapped in this regime before and during the repressive years of World War II—and the equally horrific struggles of refugees after that conflict.
Evicted from their home, their property confiscated, and eventually forced to leave their town, Anatole’s family experienced the fate of millions of Soviet citizens whose loved ones fell victim to Stalin’s purges. His mother, Raya, resorted to digging peat, stacking bricks, and even bootlegging to support herself and her two children. How she managed to hold her family together in a rapidly deteriorating society—and how young Anatole survived the horrors of marginalization and war—form a story more compelling than any novel.
Looking back on those years from adulthood, Konstantin reflects on both his formal education under harsh conditions and his growing awareness of the contradictions between propaganda and reality. He tells of life in the small Ukrainian town of Khmelnik just before World War II and of how some of its citizens collaborated with the German occupation, lending new insight into the fate of Ukrainian Jews and Nazi corruption of local officials. And in recounting his experiences as a refugee, he offers a new look at everyday life in early postwar Poland and Germany, as well as one of the few firsthand accounts of life in postwar Displaced Persons camps.
A Red Boyhood takes readers inside Stalinist Russia to experience the grim realities of repression—both under a Soviet regime and German occupation. A moving story of desperate people in desperate times, it brings to life the harsh realities of the twentieth century for young and old readers alike.
Published by: University of Missouri Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Because my childhood was so different from that of my children and
grandchildren, I decided to write down my story. I wrote it just as if I were
telling it to them in person, without any literary aspirations.
When some of my friends and relatives found out about this project, they asked to read it, and I lent them a copy of the manuscript. Much to my surprise,....
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I was startled by thunderous banging on the door. Father jumped out of
bed, hurriedly turned on the light, and rushed into the hallway. Mother also
got out of bed.
“It’s three o’clock, who could that be?” she said haltingly, and there was fear in her voice.....
Chapter 1: 1928-1938
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I was born on April 24, 1928, in a small Ukrainian town called Volochisk. The town is split in two by the River Zbruch, which between 1918 and September 1939 formed the border between Poland and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. From 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon until 1918, this...
Chapter 2: 1938-1941
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In August we received the order to move out of the border zone. It did not leave any room for interpretation: we were given two weeks to disappear. If we did not, we would be forcibly resettled in an unspecified distant region, which to us meant Siberia. Our building was being confiscated and would become state property. I remember overhearing Mother telling some-...
Chapter 3: 1941
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On a quiet and sunny Sunday afternoon of June 22, 1941, I came home from a long hike in the Black Forest, where my friend Dima and I had gathered a basketful of mushrooms that we gave to his grandmother to inspect to make sure none were poisonous....
Chapter 4: 1942
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We sailed all night and all day without seeing or hearing any airplanes. This was very fortunate because there was no place to hide. The ship was not equipped to carry passengers and there was no food for us. We were given only water, which had a metallic taste and was tepid. This may have been for the better because many passengers were seasick. Even though the waves were not...
Chapter 5: 1943
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After groping in the dark for a couple of hours, we came to Lougovaya.I knew the area around the railroad station and the delousing bathhouse,but we turned onto an unpaved side street and Mother went from house to house trying to find the right place in the dark. She finally found a sort of double kibitka and knocked on the window to the right of the door....
Chapter 6: 1944-1945
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We rode into Khmelnik on a cobblestone road, and except for the area around the station everything looked almost the same as it had three years earlier. There were, however, some signs of neglect. There were huge pot-holes in the road, and many of the houses were pockmarked with bullet holes. But when we entered the old section of town, we saw that the once...
Chapter 7: 1945-1946
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Our first stop in Poland was Lublin, the seat of the government that had been set up by the Soviets in violation of the agreement struck with Roosevelt and Churchill, who insisted that Poland already had a government-in-exile in London. The Soviets had initially recognized this government,but after it protested the execution by the NKVD of thousands of captured...
Chapter 8: 1946-1949
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Not wanting to disclose our destination, we bought tickets to Munich.There we would take the train for Landsberg, where Itche’s wife and son lived in a camp for Displaced Persons (called DPs). The train was not due for a couple of hours, and because we did not want to attract the attention of the policemen who patrolled the station, we tried to be as inconspicuous...
Page Count: 260
Illustrations: 11 Illus, map
Publication Year: 2008