Written by Sasha Filipenko. Translated by Brian James Baer and Ellen Vayner
Reviewed by Bonnie DeMoss for Historical Novels Review Magazine, February 2022.
Set in Minsk in 2001, and reaching back to 1930, Red Crosses introduces Tatyana, a 90-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and Alexander (Sasha), a man who is reeling from recent tragedy. Tatyana invites the reluctant Sasha into her apartment and begins sharing her fading memories of the early Soviet Union, her father’s standing in the Communist party, and her experiences during World War II.
What a touching and heartrending account of a woman who desperately wants to pass on what she has experienced before she can no longer remember. Her description of why she’s losing her memories, “Because God’s afraid of me. I have too many inconvenient questions…” begins a fascinating, painful, and heartbreaking tale of the Soviet Union during World War II. I learned so much about Soviet Russia at that time. For example, if a Soviet soldier was taken prisoner of war, he was immediately considered a spy, and his wife was executed or imprisoned. Children were torn from their mothers, and interrogations were brutal with no limits.
This book includes important epistolary work such as poetry and diplomatic communications. Music is a big part of the story, and musical works are described throughout. The point of view changes from first person to third person at times, but is done smoothly with no interruption to the story. You will be sad, heartbroken, devastated, and outraged as you read this beautifully written but agonizing tale. This book can be perfectly described by this one quote: “What surprises me the most is how fast, literally in a moment, morality can be shut down. Poof! Dehumanization takes only a second.” Anyone interested in a different aspect of World War II historical fiction will want to read about the shocking actions of Stalin against his own people and a woman who lived through it.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Reading the translators’ note at the beginning of the book will greatly enhance your reading experience.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sasha Filipenko, born in Minsk in 1984, is a Belarusian author who writes in Russian. After abandoning his classical music training, he studied literature in St. Petersburg and worked as a journalist, screenwriter and author for a satire show. Sasha Filipenko lives in St. Petersburg.