3 out of 4 stars
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Milk from Sand by Leonila V. Montgomery is a memoir about growing up in communist Russia between World War II and the early 1960s. The author, better known as Lilia, was two years old when the Nazis occupied Russia in 1941. Her parents, Vladimir and Maria, along with her oldest brother, Anatoly, joined the Resistance Movement. Lilia and her oldest sister, Svetlana, stayed with their grandparents in a remote village called Urovichy hiding from the Nazis. What follows is a first-hand account of how WWII and communism impacted the lives of Lilia and her family.
This memoir is an easy and fast-read consisting of 115 pages. I expected to experience sadness while reading a book full of anecdotes about growing up poor and in fear. To my surprise, Lilia infused her anecdotes with sagacity and levity. For example, Vladimir punished Lilia and her siblings after they killed a cat accidentally while sleeping. The punishment was reading books from her dad's library, which was full of books they were not supposed to have. According to the author, "Stalin had a policy that all these books should be burned, except the ones about Stalin and Lenin, and maybe Turgenev because he only wrote about nature." Lilia started to get a lot of ideas from the books. She planned a trip to the North Pole with her friends. She went to dig for treasure next to the railroad station, which had a severe consequence. More dangerous, Lilia developed a mind of her own.
The most significant aspect of this book is that it is a primary source about growing up in communist Russia. Many people to this day support communism without knowing how it was growing up and living in a society ruled by it. Lilia's book brings to the surface truths about this type of regime. I will give a few examples. Her father lost several jobs because he did things contrary to the standards of the local communist officials. Lilia went to Pioneer Camp, where kids only learned about Stalin and Lenin. While everyone was poor and hungry, the communist officials were rich and lived in ostentatious mansions. During her college years, Lilia and her classmates had to work in collective farms in extremely harsh conditions.
The issue I encountered with this book, however, is that it needs another editorial revision. I found more than ten grammatical mistakes. Other than that, the book is a valuable source of information about a historical period that negatively impacted millions of people. I want to point out that I identified somewhat with the author because my father and his family escaped the communist regime in Cuba in 1961. Even though I was not there, I have heard the brutal stories about what happens in a communist government.
I rate Milk from Sand by Leonila V. Montgomery 3 out of 4 stars because it brings to light what happened in communist Russia between WWII and the early 1960s. I deducted a star because the book needs another editorial round. I recommend this book to historians, sociologists, and readers who want to learn about this time in history.
Milk From Sand
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