My favorite book I’ve read this past year is Stalin’s Children: Three Generations of Love, War, and Survival. Written by Moscow Newsweek Bureau Chief Owen Matthews, it’s a deeply personal story of his families roots and struggles within Russia that spans three generations. The book opens with the successful lives of his grandparents. Unfortunately, the tide turns swiftly and his great grandfather is arrested and charged with anti-state behavior. He is sent to prison, never to be seen again. His grandmother was arrested shortly thereafter and serves ten years hard labor for being married to an enemy of the state. Their two children are sent to various state orphanages and raised there under the heavy influence of Joseph Stalin.
Admiration for Stalin
Although Stalin was the reason for their family being torn apart, neither girl views this as the case and in fact they deeply admire Stalin. One of the girls, Mila, grows up to become an academic and falls in love with a British National taking part in a foreign exchange program in Russia, the first of it’s kind. The British National, Mervyn Matthews (Owen’s father) is recruited by the KGB, but upon rebuffing them is deported from the country. His love affair with Mila survives despite the distance and through letters, phone calls, and two clandestine face to face meetings they manage to keep their love alive.
Mervyn petitions the British and Russian government for five long years to receive a visa to go marry his love Mila. Their love stands the test of time and Mervyn is eventually granted a ten-day visa to visit Russia once again and marry Mila. Mervyn’s son Owen does a fantastic job of telling the story of his family through three generations. He also details his experiences in Russia during the crazy nineties when Russia saw an explosion of capitalism. Today he resides there part-time with his Russian wife and children, still telling the stories of his Russian bloodline.