This sensitive and memorable depiction of the establishment of Soviet Socialist Republics by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1939, with its bloodshed and violence, is filled with trenchant observations of real people behaving realistically during times of real crisis. In clear, unadorned prose, author Theodore Odrach depicts the lives of rural peasants with sensitivity and an awareness both of their independence and of their shared values, contrasting them with the mindless, bureaucratic officials who enjoy wielding power over human beings which have become mere ciphers to them. A sense of dark humor and irony, which may be the only thing that makes survival possible, distinguishes this novel from other novels of this period, and no reader will doubt that this book is written by a someone who has seen the atrocities unfold, experienced the injustices, empathized with his fellow citizens, and felt compelled to tell the world about the abuses. Odrach sets his story in Hlaby, in the Pinsk Marshes, an enormous marshland which extends into Poland, Belarus, and the Ukraine, a place which is so remote that it cannot be reached except in the winter when the marsh is frozen. When the Bolsheviks arrive in 1939, they announce that henceforth this village will be part of the Belarus Soviet Socialist Republic.
Category Archive for 'Belarus'
Tuvia, Asael, and Zus Bielski, leaders of a Belarussian Jewish family in the early 1940’s, found life impossible under the German occupation, but they also realized that it would not get any better if they co-operated with the authorities in any way. Leaving their home under cover of night, they daringly escaped into the forest behind their mill, where they intended to live out the war, if they could. Although initially their escape to the forest was purely an attempt to save their own family, the eldest brother, Tuvia Bielski, also wanted to save as many people from the ghetto as possible. Soon other refugees found their way to the forest encampment, and as the community grew larger, he required its members to go back into the ghetto to rescue others: “Those who refuse to go into the ghetto [to rescue other Jews] will be the first to go [from this community]. If they do not do it, they do not have any place here with us.” When the Germans finally retreated from Belarus in the summer of 1944, almost twelve hundred Jewish survivors of the Holocaust shocked the world by materializing from the forest where they had lived in hiding during the German occupation.