Book Review: Red Winter

By: Kyra Kaptzan Robinov

Nikolaevsk-on-Amur was a peaceful, frozen hamlet in Eastern Siberia, isolated from the rest of Russia and its political unrest. Until the winter of 1920, when Bolsheviks found their way into the town, arresting opposition party members, business owners, foreigners, and Jews. This idyllic village was suddenly turned into a war zone. Ilya, a well-known and respected newspaper editor and lawyer is among those arrested and imprisoned, leaving his wife, Luba, alone to defend the lives of their young children and that of his mother.

Luba’s story is nothing short of heroic as she finds her life of comfort and privilege turned upside down when her home is billeted by Bolshevik invaders, making a mess of the home and laying waste to her family’s winter provisions. Seeking help from what friends remain to her, she is forced to hide her family in pigsties, an opium den, and an abandoned warehouse.

This work of historical fiction is based on the author’s own family history. The fictional character, Luba, was based on her grandmother, who survived the Russian revolution.

Luba’s tenacity and resourcefulness are really incredible. Living in a household with her domineering mother-in-law, who still very much takes charge of the day to day running of their household, with the assistance of servants who are tasked with preparing meals, cleaning, and caring for her children, Luba is able to live something of a charmed life. Her transition in the wake of the Bolsheviks invading her town and her home, is really remarkable. When faced with such challenging circumstances, she shows unbelievable strength.

I’ll close by saying I enjoyed the author’s use of vivid imagery and careful attention to historical accuracy. This is well-worth adding to your reading list.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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