While the mothers in Siberia wait for their soldier sons to return from the war in the west in 1945, the eight year old Eduard secretly jumps on board the trains heading in the opposite direction, heading west, towards Leningrad. Placed in a Siberian orphanage as a child because his parents were arrested as public enemies there is only one thing he wants: to go back home to Leningrad and to find his mother again. It is not only his desperate courage and his youthful agility that ensure his survival, it is also his artistic talent. With his agile fingers the boy is able to bend wire in the shape of profiles of Lenin and Stalin, as if in silhouette. He uses them to cheer up the invalid war veterans on the train stations returning from the front, who then give him a piece of bread, a bowl of soup and who, in a spirit of comradeship, warn him of the railway police and the secret service henchmen wanting to send the runaway back to the orphanage.
Eduard spends more than six years on the run, experiencing close encounters with post-war Russia where life and fate have become synonyms. He encounters other stowaways, professional beggars, soldiers returning from the war and wartime profiteers, the mothers of soldiers and war invalids, Chinese from the Ural, Cossacks dealing in hashish, Bashkir Estonians, Russian penal colony escapees and, time and again, orphanage directors. In order to survive the winter he often registered himself voluntarily in the next orphanage, each one always a little closer to the West, running away again before the servants of the Stalinist state are able to send him back to Siberia.
The memoirs of an old man who, as a boy, learned to find his way between extortionate state control and marauding banditry, the two poles that characterize Russia to this day. A story about the awakening of artistic talent under highly unusual Russian circumstances.
I was given the opportunity to read Christened with Crosses by Eduard Kochergin for a blog tour and I must say I feel honored to have been selected to read this book. This story is so gripping and emotional you cannot help but to be drawn into it. There were times I swore I could feel the nip of the Siberian Winter at my feet.
One of the main reasons you feel such a connection to this story is that it is Eduard Kochergin’s story told how he lived it. Spending part of his life in an orphanage in Siberia you can imagine that he had some rough times. Once he escapes from the orphanage he flees to St. Petersburg in hopes to find his Mother.
I have always enjoyed reading about Russian History and this time of upheaval is one that I have studied. However despite my knowledge of things I was left somewhat unprepared for this story of someone who actually lived the hardness that war torn times in Russia offered. I don’t want to give to many secrets away from Christened with Crosses because you really need to read it yourself to appreciate the story. I found it made me look back and rethink some of the things in my life that I complain about and realize perhaps they really are not that bad.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in history and living.
My Gemstone Rating: