The Crimson Bookshelf
ESCAPE FROM THE SOVIETS. By Tatiana Tchernavin, translated by N. Alexander. E. P. Dutton and Company. 1934. 320 pages. $2.50.
MUCH has been written against the Soviet regime in Russia, but rarely has there been published a more effective protest than this new book, "Escape From the Soviets." It is a straightforward, patently honest account of the hardships suffered in Soviet Russia by the family of a middle-class university professor.
Its very simplicity of style is what gives this story its force. The tale itself consists of not unfamiliar elements: a life guided by a desperate need for food and an equally desperate desire to avoid the notice of the OGPU, then months in filthy prisons, finally escape through northern Russia into Finland. All this has been told before by other exiles, but here it is set forth with a stark simplicity that strikes home like a javelin.
No attempt is made to alter or conceal the authoress's feelings. Madame Tchernavin presents herself as a welleducated, middle-aged lady who loves two things: her family, consisting of her husband and young son, and her interest in art and literature. Both of those are crushed by the OGPU for no apparent reason, yet so complete is the crushing that Madame Tchernavin's feelings are rather of dull despair and fear than active hate.
The picture of the life of an "intellectual" under an unthinking, illogical government of uneducated proletarians is a very vivid one. Its chief feature is the sincere way in which it is painted. One sees poity prejudices and dislikes vanish before a willingness to do anything that will preserve life itself. The cumulative effect leads one to think that this book accomplishes its purpose: it presents a protest by a simple narration of events.