Young Heroes of the Sovi­et Union: A Mem­oir and a Reckoning

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2019

In this urgent and enthralling reck­on­ing with fam­i­ly and his­to­ry” (Andrew Solomon), an Amer­i­can writer returns to Rus­sia to face a fam­i­ly his­to­ry that still haunts him. Can trau­ma be inher­it­ed? It is this ques­tion that sets Alex Hal­ber­stadt off on a quest to name and acknowl­edge a lega­cy of fam­i­ly trau­ma and to end a cen­­tu­ry-old cycle of estrange­ment. His search takes him across the trou­bled, enig­mat­ic land of his birth. In Ukraine, he tracks down his pater­nal grand­fa­ther — most like­ly the last liv­ing body­guard of Joseph Stal­in — to reck­on with the ways in which decades of Sovi­et total­i­tar­i­an­ism shaped three gen­er­a­tions of his fam­i­ly. He vis­its Lithua­nia, his Jew­ish mother’s home, to exam­ine the lega­cy of the Holo­caust and per­ni­cious anti­semitism that remains large­ly unac­count­ed for. And he returns to his birth­place, Moscow, to explore his own sto­ry, which even­tu­al­ly brought him, an immi­grant, to New York. As he traces the frag­ile bound­ary between his­to­ry and biog­ra­phy, Hal­ber­stadt comes to real­ize some­thing more: Nations, like peo­ple, pos­sess for­ma­tive trau­mas that pen­e­trate into the most pri­vate recess­es of their cit­i­zens’ lives.

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