Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin
I once worked for a man who had grown up in the Soviet Union and had served in the Soviet Army. He did not talk about his experiences unless asked, but he was glad to answer any questions the I had about life in Russia under Communism.
In explaining how he came to be in the Soviet Army, he said that he was enrolled in college and as such, he could not be drafted. He had always thought about coming to the United States, so from the safety of college, he submitted the paperwork to emigrate. With a laugh he said, “Two weeks later, I was in the Soviet Army.” Dmitri is a funny guy.
He talked about hardships and scarcities that he experienced prior to emigrating and the general understanding among the Russian people of the corruption of their government. I sometimes wonder how to communicate the harshness and depravity of Communism to my children.
Yelchin’s book Breaking Stalin’s Nose is a great way to introduce these ideas to children. It is the sympathetic portrayal of two pivotal days in the life of Sasha Zaichik, the child hero of the story. The author grew up in the Soviet Union, so brings the point of view of one who knows these fears first hand.
Sasha Zaichik is the only child of a KGB agent, whose profession is to ‘dissappear’ undesireable people to the Lubyanka prison in Moscow. In the night, the police come for him and 10 year old Sasha struggles to understand what has happenned to his father during a tumultuous last day at school. Sasha moves from being a patriot who hopes for the help of Stalin, to a disillusioned realist who has begun to see the evil of the system. It is an experience that many Russians had to live during the reign of the Tyrant Stalin’s dictatorship.
There is nothing that Stalin did that many other dictators have not tried, albeit on a smaller scale. And much of this kind of evil still exists in the world. When power is aggregated to the State, it attracts the worst kind of people to wield it. Breaking Stalin’s Nose shows what a crushing effect of the State and a ruthless leader on the people under tyranny.
This book is highly recommended.