Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Bit of Personal Insight into History | Review of “No Longer on the Run” by Lorraine Fell (2014)

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Headlines and history tend to bombard us with details that overwhelm us at times. But when we hear a personal story from someone first-hand who lived through important events, the details become vivid in the mind’s eye that we remember them with clarity. That is what occurred when I read No Longer on the Run: The Untold Story of a Young Ukrainian in the Soviet Secret Service recently. Lorraine Fell has documented the life of Andy Klischenko in an interesting and sensitive manner.

Page 9- Talne

Andry (Andy) Klischenko was born on November 30, 1925, in the city of Kiev, in Ukraine. The early years of Andy’s life were filled with turbulent change and upheaval in his country. Beginning in 1917 a series of revolutions in Russia led to the emergence of Joseph Stalin as supreme leader of a new Soviet regime, resulting in colossal change in the lives of people in surrounding countries.

Thus, Andy’s life and that of his only sibling, a sister Hallena (Halla) born in 1927, began in the Ukrainian Republic. Stalin’s authoritative rules and dictates soon rendered great upheaval in the lives of the Ukrainian people. Nevertheless, in their early years Andy and Halla led privileged lives, growing up blissfully unaware of the underlying turmoil about to erupt in their country.

This book documents the life of Klischenko through the hardships of the Stalin regime, the invasion by Nazi Germany in World War II and his incarceration in a German labour camp. Now after many years since his immigration to Canada does Klischenko feel safe about talking about his experiences to his Canadian neighbour Lorraine Fell.

Page 22-23 The Untold Story

Remembering the fate of his father at the hands of the NKVD, Andy said “At first I had grave misgivings about co-operating in any way with the Soviet dictator.” Then he thought of his grandfather’s current involvement; he remembered his grandfather telling him of the active role he had taken in the Russian revolutions in the past. He reasoned that the Soviet Union was now an ally of the west; his country was at war, and they both faced a greater threat from Germany. As these thoughts ran quickly through his mind, he concluded the Soviets and the Ukrainian people now had an enemy in common. Andy agreed to accept the job.

Subsequently the officers took Andy through a period of training. Andy said, “They appeared very knowledgeable, first telling me all the details about the day Germany first invaded Poland.” He said, “Then the agents stressed, the most important part of this job is to appear invisible at all times, at the station or going to and from the station. They warned Andy, “Write nothing down, but remember everything you see.” Andy paid attention. He succeeded in spying and reporting to the agents for almost two years without being detected.

There is a strong human element to this book. No matter what the political or social situation was around Klischenko, he always maintained a bit of human dignity around him. The story was a pleasure to read for that element.

Page 35-36 The German Labour (Prison) Camp

In 1945, two weeks before the war ended the labour camps were suddenly liberated by British soldiers. Most of the German soldiers and guards fled and the British tried to direct the prisoners and restore some semblance of order for the inmates, now free but with nowhere to go.

One day, walking along the roadway to meet a friend from another camp, Andy suddenly heard a shot. Up ahead, he saw two soldiers scrambling in the ditch by the roadside. One was a young German, and the other an older British soldier. Both had bayonets. Andy said, “The German had drawn the blade, which looked to be 12 inches long. The British soldier, reacting quickly, shot the German in the leg. I was about twenty feet away as I saw the young German fall backwards into the ditch. The British soldier grabbed the German’s bayonet, and stood over him pointing his own gun at the German. As I came up to them, the British soldier just stood there, looking down at the German with his hand on the trigger. When her turned toward me, there were tears in his eyes. He cried out to me, “I can’t kill him; he looks like my son!”  “I looked down at the young lad and saw the fright in his eyes, and his face streaked with tears.” It was an emotionally charged moment. “As we stood there, tears welled up in my eyes; all three of us were silently crying together. Abruptly, the British soldier turned; carrying both guns he just walked away. A Red Cross truck arrived shortly afterward to take care of the wounded German. That was the last I saw of them, but I will always remember the look of desperation on that British soldier’s face.” This episode likely lasting less than five minutes may be considered by some, to be just another incident of war; to Andy it was a personal experience that left a lasting impact. The stories of war, the atrocities committed the constant fear endured, the heroism of many, and the simple human anguish of one soldier will never be forgotten, so long as one person lives to tell the story.

Lorraine Fell has documented the story of Andy Klischenko in No Longer on the Run: The Untold Story of a Young Ukrainian in the Soviet Secret Service with detail and passion. An interesting read and one that won’t be forgotten.

*****

Link to Wallbridge House Publishing page for No Longer on the Run

A Trusted Name Writes to His Grandchildren | Looking at David Suzuki’s “A Letter to My Grandchildren” (release date: 2015) Greystone Books

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We have all watched David Suzuki tirelessly inform about science, technology and the environment for decades. His work, in all the forms he does, is well regarded not only here in Canada but around the world. Last week, I received a sample of his new book – A Letter to My Grandchildren – via email. This sample shows not only Suzuki dedication to bring facts to the public’s attention but also includes a deep passion to inform his grandchildren in a future date.

 

Page 2 – In Search of Roots

 

Even though three of you—Tamo, Midori, and Jonathan—

were born in the 1990s, you will spend most of your lives

in the twenty-first century. And, of course, Ganhi and Tiis,

your entire lives will be spent in the twenty-first century.

The stories from my life that I will recount here will seem

like the stuff of history books to you because what is my

living memory you only know through such books, movies,

and videos.

Even though we live in a multicultural society, Suzuki’s narrative here adds a new and unique perspective to the discourse of history. And the fact that he has shaped it in a letter to his grandchildren makes the book easy to read.

 

Page 3

 

My father’s parents never did make a trip, or even a

phone call, back to Japan. After being kept in camps during

World War II, my mother’s parents decided to leave Canada.

They were dropped off in Hiroshima, which had been flattened

by the first atomic bomb ever dropped over a city. I can

only imagine the suffering of the terribly injured survivors,

who had radiation burns and injuries that had never been

encountered before and needed medical help, food, and shelter.

All of Japan had been hammered by war, but Hiroshima

was in a category by itself. Not surprisingly, my elderly

grandparents both died less than a year after their return.

This should be a fantastic read. The sample sent is all too brief but if the book includes more of the information Suzuki wishes to impart to his grandchildren in the manner he has done so then it should be a great book.

When my grandparents arrived in Vancouver, it was a

resource town built on mining, fishing, and logging and

drew people from all over the world. It was a rough-andtumble

place, where racist assumptions about people of

color were embedded in the culture. After all, when Europeans

first arrived in North America, they claimed to have

“discovered” it, despite the hundreds of thousands of people

living in rich and varied cultures all across the continent.

Because the indigenous people were completely alien to the

incoming Europeans, they were dismissed as “primitive.”

The newcomers were focused on finding wealth and had

little interest in the indigenous people, flora, and fauna

except as resources. They regarded indigenous people as

savages who should be forced to adopt European ways. This

attitude continued through the twentieth century, when

indigenous children were sent to residential schools and

their languages and traditional ways were officially banned.

Asians and blacks, too, were considered different and

assumed to be inferior and so were not given the right to

vote or, in many parts of British Columbia, to own property.

They were also prohibited from entering certain professions,

such as medicine and pharmacy. That was British Columbia

and much of Canada in the early twentieth century.

A Letter to My Grandchildren by David Suzuki should be a brilliant read when it is released in 2015. The writing style is light yet the information it gives provides is unique and enlightening.

*****

Link to the David Suzuki Foundation website, to which proceeds from A Letter to My Grandchildren will go to.

Link to Greystone Books

 

 

 

The Last Read of my Summer Reads is always my Favourite | Review of “The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish” by Allan Stratton (2014) Dundurn

There is always one read that sits on my reading table on during a season that remains desired yet I never seem to get to. At the start of the summer, I had the pleasure of hearing Allan Stratton read from his novel The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish. The book sat thereafter on my reading shelf waiting to be read. Finally, a couple weeks ago, I had the time to not only to read but to savour the whimsical story that Stratton has written. It was a joyful effort.

Page 11 The Vision

Mary Mabel’s decision to kill herself wasn’t taken lightly.  She’d considered it off and on every since she was ten. That’s when she and her papa, Brewster McTavish, had arrived on the doorstep of the Bentwhistle Academy for Young Ladies, a Gothic flurry of  turrets, parapets, corbelled chimneys, gargoyles, dormers and widow’s walks, more apt for the housing of bats than the delinquent daughters of the idle rich.

Stratton has written an excellent book here set in the 1930’s depression. The protagonist, Mary Mabel McTavish is recovering in the town hospital after a suicide attempt. Little Timmy Beeford is brought into emergency after being electrocuted at an evangelical road show. Little Timmy is pronounced dead but Mary Mabel is convinced (she believes by her dead mother) to lay her hands on the boy. Little Timmy comes back to life. Mary is vaulted into the world of stardom and celebrity that she is loathed to deal with.

Page 153 Truth versus Truth

Seeing herself on the silver screen gave Mary Mabel palpitations. The Twins said she mustn’t feel self-conscious, that the mole above her lip hardly showed at all.

“Nonsense,” she wept. “Everything shows. My face is so big the entire town could crawl up my nose.”

“So what?” Floyd consoled. “A little plainness makes a person look sincere.”

Mary Mabel could have smacked him. Most embarrassing to her was having to stand outside the theatre each night in her nurses outfit. She tried to refuse. “People will stare!”

“That’s the idea.” Floyd said. “Just imagine you’re an actress. The uniform is your costume.”

While Stratton has written a story set in the 1930s, the themes he covers are still issues for us today. Things like the religious right, media, celebrity and so forth are mixed together here with a big mixture of folly that makes this book both a great and enlightening read.

Page 230 Scandal

William Randolph Hearst was immersed in clarity: the lake of spring water that filled the Neptune Pool at his castle at San Simeon. Soon guests would be arriving from Hollywood for a weekend of horseback riding. Early birds Erroll Flynn, Dick Powell, and Charlie Chaplin had already unpacked and hit the tennis courts. Marion was playing hostess. He’d join them, but for the moment preferred his solitude, swimming brisk lengths over the green mosaics that lined the basin floor, past the marble statues of Venus, mermaids and cherubs that graced the deck, and between the Roman Colonnades that bracketed this piece of heaven.

It was a great day to be alive. At his age, every day was. Not that he wasn’t at the top of his game. He’d been the first to puff Mary Mabel McTavish. He’d had the smarts to scout K. O. Doyle , too. Between the girl’s story and the kid’s rat-a-tat-tatty prose, the public couldn’t get enough. Neither could he. As the miracles multiplied like the loaves and fishes, his brain had been on fire. Mary Mabel’s life was the stuff of biopics. A natural for his Cosmopolitan Pictures. A vehicle for his sweetie. Marion was a bit old for the part, but so what? Better too old than too young. The idea of Shirley Temple raising the dead gave him gas.

The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish by Allan Stratton is a strong, enlightening and joyful read. While it illuminates the social scene of the 1930s, it also has themes that pertain to today.

Link to Allan Stratton’s website

Link to Dundurn’s page for The Resurrection of Mary Mabel McTavish