More than fifty years after fleeing the Russians and Nazis, poet Zofia Ilinska returns to the tiny Eastern European village of her birth to find her old home and to rediscover her childhood and the history of her family."
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A chronicle of one ‚migr‚ Polish aristocrat's return to her family's abandoned estate is transformed by an award-winning British writer into an evocative narrative complete with two remarkable heroines and two world wars. That poet Zofia Ilinska had a colorful and mysterious past was apparent early on to Marsden, who as a boy summered in the Cornish village where Ilinska lived. Yet nothing quite prepared him for the drama, pain, and courage that were revealed to him when he accompanied his old friend on a journey to her ancestral homes in and around the city of Vilnius, in Poland's former eastern borderlands. Marsden's English voice, with its combination of curiosity and distance, drives and shapes this fascinating tale of Ilinska and her mother, Helena, and their vanished, rarefied world of Poland's landed aristocracy. Helena, who witnessed both world wars and the start of the Russian Revolution in St. Petersburg, is a woman of courage, charm, and innocence who inspires in the reader a combination of awe and pity. Working from her papers and diaries, Marsden vividly captures the spirit of Helena and the customs, mores, and prejudices of her society and family. By going back a generation, he provides Ilinska's own remarkable story of love and misfortune with added depth and perspective, highlighting the ``patterns of loss'' that plagued mother, daughter, and Poland, whether caught between lovers or armies. During her journey home, Ilinska finds her family's estate in ruins and the family graves looted. Her response is pragmatic. She restores the family chapel, declaring that it is for the locals, both Orthodox and Catholic, to use. With this act she brings a sense of closure to her own past while infusing hope into historic local, national, and religious tensions that surrounded her family's private world. A fascinating and dramatic tale of love and loss on both a personal and national scale. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
"This whole terrible world is upside down," exiled Polish poet Zofia Bronska Ilinska tells English author Marsden (The Crossing Place: A Journey Among the Armenians, LJ 4/15/95) as they revisit the Eastern Europe of her childhood. Published in Britain in 1996, this work combines an account of 1990s Belarus, based on Marsden's travels with Ilinska, with an interpretation of the past, drawn from her mother's journals and papers from the outset of World War I to the start of World War II. The traumas of war are intermingled with the everyday life of two generations of young women coming of age. In scenes reminiscent of Doctor Zhivago, the book powerfully depicts the effects of war on a wealthy family who became impoverished refugees. Plagued by constantly shifting borders, the family also moved from place to place as they fled the ever-changing enemy?sometimes German, sometimes Russian, sometimes their Belorussian neighbors. A moving account; highly recommended for all libraries.?Denise J. Stankovics, Rockville P.L., Vernon, Ct.
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Book Description Harpercollins, 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX000638692X