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I Want To Live: The Diary of a Young Girl in Stalin's Russia
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I Want To Live: The Diary of a Young Girl in Stalin's Russia

3.3 3
by Nina Lugovskaya, Anne Fine (Introduction), Andrew Bromfield (Translator)

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Recently unearthed in the archives of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, Nina Lugovskaya’s diary offers rare insight into the life of a teenage girl in Stalin’s Russia—when fear of arrest was a fact of daily life. Like Anne Frank, thirteen-year-old Nina is conscious of the extraordinary dangers around her and her family, yet she is


Recently unearthed in the archives of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, Nina Lugovskaya’s diary offers rare insight into the life of a teenage girl in Stalin’s Russia—when fear of arrest was a fact of daily life. Like Anne Frank, thirteen-year-old Nina is conscious of the extraordinary dangers around her and her family, yet she is preoccupied by ordinary teenage concerns: boys, parties, her appearance, who she wants to be when she grows up. As Nina records her most personal emotions and observations, her reflections shape a diary that is as much a portrait of her intense inner world as it is the Soviet outer one.

Preserved here, these markings—the evidence used to convict Nina as a “counterrevolutionary”—offer today’s reader a fascinating perspective on the era in which she lived.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A remarkable document, showing an intelligent teen's rage against oppressive politics, as well as universal coming-of-age concerns--including anxieties about looks, academic pressures, and hopeful yearnings coupled with suicidal lows. . . . This will provide crucial support for high-school, and even college-level, studies of Russian history. Using boldfaced type, the editors have preserved those passages marked as counterrevolutionary by the Soviet investigators who confiscated the diary; helpful appended material includes editor's notes, a thoughtful bibliography, and several photos and family letters.
Booklist, ALA
Publishers Weekly

In this revealing diary, 13-year-old Nina Lugovskaya gave a true account of her life during Stalin's Great Terror. Nina's diary begins on October 8, 1932 and continues as she records her observations about school, friends, crushes and her family life, along with angry commentary about Stalin's restrictive regime: "Today they herded us out to march around the streets, which made me absolutely furious.... Walking over the cold, gray ground in the damp, dull light of an autumn day... and cursing Soviet power to myself." Her family was subjected to constant raids by the NKVD (Stalin's secret police) because of her father's involvement in the Socialist Revolutionary Party. She was cruelly teased by classmates because of her lazy eye and her academic struggles made her depressed-suicide is a topic she revisits throughout her diary. Nina's final entry occurs on January 3, 1937; the next day her diary was confiscated during a raid by the NKVD. During intensive interrogation, Nina (falsely) confesses to a plot to assassinate Stalin and she, her mother and twin sisters are sentenced to five years of hard labor in Kolyma prison camp, where they miraculously survived; Nina herself worked as an artist and lived until the age of 74. Lugovskaya's diary, which was found in the NKVD archives, stands as a compelling historical artifact and Nina's story gives a moving-if relentlessly melancholy-personal account of life in Communist Russia. Ages 12-up. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Laura Lehner-Ennis
"I want to be great and extraordinary," writes Nina Lugovskaya, a fourteen-year-old girl living in Moscow during Stalin's reign in the 1930s. Although she never realized the greatness that she craved, the diary in which she wrote those words serves witness seventy years later to how extraordinarily prolific and insightful a writer she was. This book chronicles four years of the teen's life in a difficult and confusing era, when concerns about party dresses and classroom crushes compete with the realities of midnight raids by the police and of her dissident father spending long periods of time in prison. Nina's diaries were discovered recently in the archives of the KGB and have been published with copious italicized notes and with "incriminating" passages-mostly complaints against Stalin-highlighted by the secret police. Comparisons of this book to that of Anne Frank are inevitable, but Nina's observations are more mature and more pessimistic. She suffers profound depression at times and talks of suicide often. She has physical impairments that set her back in school so that she is older than everyone else and somewhat disdainful. Yet as a budding reporter and feminist, she gives an important historical portrait of Stalin's Russia. The format of the book is complex but manageable, and a list of characters is especially helpful. It should be a welcome read for anyone with an interest in Russian history or an appetite for a challenging and enlightening read.
Kirkus Reviews
Lugovskaya began her diary about her life in Moscow in 1932 when she was 13. She continued writing about her activities and thoughts until 1937 when she and her family were raided by Stalin's secret police. The title does not refer to life in Siberia, but about everyday events and her adolescent angst at school and home, her social life, her friends and her frequent comments about wanting to commit suicide. Nina is endlessly in and out of love and worries about her appearance since she is self-conscious about an eye condition (a crossed eye). Readers can see what life was like under Stalin, and they will learn about the Soviet school system and the social life of young people. But will they care? The diary has been compared to Anne Frank's, but that is neither correct nor apt. Lugovskaya was not hidden nor did she perish when the family was sent to Siberia. Explanatory notes are added to some entries, which might help readers. Includes photos and a reading list. (Biography. 12-15)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.93(d)
1000L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

Yesterday at school, our first lesson was double social studies, and the teacher, Evtsikhevich, arrived even more dressed up than usual, and that set us off laughing and making all sorts of jokes about him. He gave some of the boys reports to write, including Staska, and I promised to write his report for him, which I really regret doing now.

In the fourth lesson, before the German teacher arrived in the classroom, Lyovka was standing by the glass tank of newts and prodding them in the back with his pen. One of them grabbed hold of the tip of his pen, and Lyovka thought that was hilarious. He burst out laughing and made a dash for his seat, almost skipping along.

“Ugh, what horrible faces they have, ugly as sin!”

“Just like yours,” Irina quipped, and Lyovka answered back, slightly embarrassed: “No, like yours.”

Something’s changing, imperceptibly but irresistibly, in the way I feel about the boys, and we are becoming friends (something I’ve dreamed of for ages). I don’t feel anything special for Lyovka now; I kind of like him, that’s all.
After school I went to Ira’s place and stayed there till late. When I got home, Zhenya and Lyalya weren’t back yet.

Now it’s half past ten. Zhenya is sitting playing the piano and I’m trying to note down as fast as I can the way music makes me feel. You wouldn’t believe how much I love it, but it can be weirdly painful and bitter. It’s impossible to explain the powerful and complicated emotions it gives me; something fragile and delicate begins to stir somewhere deep inside me, setting me on edge in a good and a bad way, something that wants to be let out.

At moments like this I’d love to be able to join in and sing with my sisters, to let out all my feelings and make beautiful music, but all that comes out is a thin, tremulous wheezing, and I go quiet, letting the confusing tide of feelings ebb away. All the different melodies—playful and mischievous or full of deep, distressing emotions—send me into a dreamworld.

Love! How can you not think about it when everyone goes on and on about how great it is! How can you not dream about it? Take these words:

It was on the outskirts of Granada, Where the Spaniards are known to dwell, And endless serenades fill the air.
There the beauties all smoke cigars, And eternal summer reigns, There guitars thrum and jangle And castanets clatter night and day.
One night in a remote alley, Don Rodrigo Jerez del Malaga Was out walking at his set hour, Leaning upon his long sword.
The sword glinted bright ’neath the moon, The streets were flooded with light, When Don Malaga suddenly beheld The bright image of Senora Lolita [anonymous; probably a poem set to music]

I really like them, and the tune is really simple and playful. It makes me feel as if I’m gazing curiously out into the distance, into a wide expanse filled with the obscure phantoms of some different, romantic life.

Almost nothing interesting happened at school today. The first lessons were dull, and in physics we carried on with questions and answers, and I was bored, so I drew a picture of Lyovka in Zina’s rough book. He was getting on my nerves, spinning around all the time, but I couldn’t tell him to stop because I didn’t want him to know I was drawing him.

Ira once said to me: “It would be a good idea to write all this down, Nina, and read it back at the end of the year.” “There’s no point,” I said in an innocent voice, secretly laughing to myself.

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I Want To Live: The Diary of a Young Girl in Stalin's Russia 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the autobiography I Want to Live by Nina Lugovskaya the author faces obstacles and finds her true self.  The book is about a girl named Nina who is living in Russia during Stalin's ruling.  The book is kind of boring and unentertaining at first.  As you read on though it starts to interest you.  For example in the story, the author writes about everything that’s going on with her school and what’s happening with her country.  There was a few things that I did not enjoy.  For example, there are only some parts in the story that really grab my attention.  Another is that the author did not really give much detail.  I encourage you to read this book because it gives a good lesson on what life was like in Russia during Stalin's ruling.   Also it tells what life was like as a girl during his reign.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
abc98 More than 1 year ago
I am always drawn to historical non-fiction such as this book and was happily surprised about what I found in this book. Nina Lugovskaya¿s writing is raw, honest, and insightful. It was hard at times to read through her more depressed states, but this aspect of the book is a true reflection of her feelings and experiences. She was a normal teenager in so many ways, yet she battled some very harsh conditions with a combination of courage and realism. The book does deal with suicide and depression and has some minor language. Overall, however I felt it beautiful conveyed the ups and downs that any teen would experience in such a rough political climate. She shares her feelings about crushing on boys, being cross-eyed and searching for her niche in the world as any other girl her age. It is also fascinating to see what parts of her journal were important to the KGB.
I was amazed at the writing ability of the Nina Lugovskaya, especially considering her young age. I was thankful that the editors provided the character guide at the beginning of the book; this helped me navigate through some of the names that were foreign to me. I also loved the italicized historical information and other relevant information added to the end of some of the journal entries. They really helped me appreciate the context of Nina¿s story. This is a great book for a high school World History class or an English class. Two thumbs up!