Customer Reviews for

Stalin's Children: Three Generations of Love, War, and Survival

Average Rating 4
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2008

    Very well done.

    Owen Matthews weaves an unforgettable tale in this celebration of his family and the lives that they lived both by choice and by force. Matthews' mother is Russian and his father is Welsh and their love story is the central theme of this memoir. With their letters to each other serving as a springboard, Matthews gives us an intimate portrait of how much his Mother, Lyudmila, and his father, Mervyn, fought to keep alive their love, a love that was considered inconvenient by both their governments. Both Lyudmila and Meryvn came from family background that would scar them in physical and mental ways. Lyudmila's father Boris Bibikov was a loyal party member who served his government without question. He saw the deaths and brutalizations that his beloved government carried out but he excused it all because he like many party members believed that the communist philosophy was supreme. The hunger and starvation that farmers suffered due to collectivization were not unknown to him but they were inconvenient truths that he was not ready to deal with, so he ignored them. But Bibikov did not just ignore the atrocities, he also benefited directly by being a minion of the state, living in a beautiful house, buying foreign goods and taking vacations in beautiful sanatoriums. Unfortunately for Bibikov, he later sides with Sergei Kirov who was seen by many at the time as Stalin's heir apparent. Bibikov like many who took this stand thought that Stalin was slowly going to step down and did not realize that their stance would eventually lead to their demise. Kirov dies quite unexpectedly and all his supporters realize that they are in hot water. But Stalin like the master manipulator he was, does not take any action for awhile. He even promotes some of Kirov's supporters, Bibikov included. Just when some thought it was over, Stalin exacts his revenge and all or most of Kirov's support are dragged into jail, brutalize, tortured and made to confess to conspiracy against their government. Bibikov is one of this number and he is seized while on vacation. His family never sees him again. Left behind are his wife,Martha, and his two young daughters, Lenina and Lyudmila. Their lives are reduced to extreme poverty in a matter of days and eventually Martha is hurled into jail where she remains for a little over a decade. Somewhere in her twenties, Lyudmila meets Mervyn, a diplomat at first and later student. They form a deep attachment and love for each other. But unfortunately for them Mervyn finds himself being recruited by the KGB who think that by wowing him with nice meals, fancy vacations and talk of a better world, he will turn against his government. But when he continuously refuses, he is eventually repatriated. The rest of the book chronicles his fight to marry the woman he loves and the Russian government's refusal to allow this and his own government's ineptitude in offering any help. Through it all, Lyudmila and Mervyn write letters to each other for five years, vowing their love and continued fight to be together. This book is fascinating and the writer is a master storyteller who somehow manages to keep all of the story interesting. Matthews family history is the history of Russia and a testament to cold war politics. I could not put this book down and every page was a discovery. I was saddened by the end but the facts of it I will leave the reader to discover on their own. I highly recommend this great book.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 4, 2009

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    Posted February 19, 2011

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    Posted February 9, 2009

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