Praise for A Red Boyhood: Growing Up Under Stalin
"A boy’s-eye view of life during wartime—first the Soviet Union’s vicious internal struggles under Stalin and then its horrific ordeal after the Germans invaded in 1941.
Konstantin begins his memoir in dramatic fashion, recalling the night of April 17, 1938, when his father was taken away by the Soviet secret police and never seen again in their little town in the Ukraine. The early passages of the book do a fine job of explaining the climate in which such an incident could occur; Konstantin describes an Orwellian regime full of furtive police activities, mysterious disappearances and a terrorized populace. What makes Konstantin’s recollections so captivating is his ability to effectively divide the text between small details vividly rendered, such as a trip to the movie theater, and the larger story of a global political and military struggle. Despite the upheavals that roiled his childhood, the author somehow managed to get a decent education; he refers frequently to inspirational teachers and to devouring books ranging from The Grapes of Wrath to Das Kapital. But these moments of enlightenment in Konstantin’s young life were tempered by the unbearable wartime conditions; often, as he left school for the day, he saw corpses piled high on wagons to be carted away. His mother married a Polish refugee in 1944, and they were able to return with him to Poland in 1945, happy to escape the “cursed” Soviet Union. But the Soviets soon consolidated their grip on Poland, and the family fled west, finally winding up in a UN refugee camp in Germany. As a displaced person, Konstantin qualified for free tuition at a local university, and after three more years of struggle was finally able to emigrate to “the land of my dreams”—America.
Uneven, but full of engaging details about a tumultuous period in world history"
“Replete with the perils of living under Communism and in wartime, Konstantin’s lucid memoir contributes to the body of civilian witness to World War II.”
“This is praise for your writing, because once I started, I couldn’t put it down, and gave it to Laura, who had the same experience. You evoke a world that will be forever remembered because, despite the pain and horrors of it, you recreate it beautifully, sensually, and with affection. Even now, weeks after reading your book, we recall a bit or other of wisdom from it, with the story it came in, and it makes us happy all over again. You wrote a masterwork. I already lent the book to a friend.”
(Novelist, screenwriter, commentator for NPR)
“I finished the book you sent us a few days ago and wanted to thank you again for having given me the occasion to learn about your friend’s fate and that of so many others at the time through his captivating narration. His description of what he finds in the small towns in the Ukraine where he lived before the war are overwhelming and I often think about his stories.”
(International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva,
in charge of the Eastern European Desk)
“On the strength of [a] recommendation I bought the book and read every word of it. What a fascinating description of his boyhood! The author has an excellent talent for description! I could closely empathize with his life and encounters and the many insecurities and threats he confronted. . . . I really enjoyed the book and want to thank you for the ‘heads up.’ ”
-David E. Farnham
(Retired U.S. Army Col., one of the top people in the
Department of Defense, Intelligence Department)
Praise for Through the Eyes of an Immigrant
"A refugee from the Soviet Union settles in the United States and hustles to make a life there in this memoir.
In 1949, after fleeing Ukraine and attending a university in Germany, Konstantin (A Red Boyhood—Growing Up Under Stalin, 2008) landed in Boston. He had only $22 to his name, warily hidden in the lining of his pants, and the support of his sponsor, the New York Association for New Americans. It wasn’t easy for him to find work as a mechanical engineer, so he barely made ends meet by leapfrogging from one menial job to another. He finally found more promising employment in Ohio and was eventually able, in 1969 at the age of 40, to start his own business with his brother, Bill. Along the way, he fell in love with a woman named Rosaria Puccio, and they married and had children. The author negotiated their religious differences—he’s decidedly secular and she was raised Catholic—with the help of the Ethical Culture Society, a humanist philosophical group that emphasizes the shared moral ground of the world’s major theologies. Konstantin, an avid reader and lifelong student, later earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in industrial management. In this book, he constantly situates his own personal experience in the context of geopolitical affairs, which largely meant the dramatic unfolding of the Cold War. He also includes astute discussions of American politics, never shying away from analysis of major political figures, such as presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, or watershed events, such as the Bay of Pigs and Watergate. One recurrent theme is his exasperation with Western credulity: “I was still haunted by the question of why so many Americans and European intellectuals…still believed the Soviet propaganda.” This is the second installment of the author’s memoirs, and as in many autobiographies, there’s plenty of space devoted to quotidian affairs—the details of vacations, personal financial matters, and the like. These discussions will largely interest those who know the author personally, particularly his family members. However, his discussions of communism’s unraveling, and of its intellectual attraction to Westerners, provide a stirring testimony of real, though sometimes-ignored, global atrocities. It establishes Konstantin as an extraordinary moral witness who faithfully recorded depredations that man visited upon his fellow man in the name of ideology.
An often gripping account of a tempestuous half-century."