Since I’ve been on a bit of a World War II streak, particularly with regard to WWII and Russia, I thought I’d mention that last year I worked on translating a wartime memoir that contains some fascinating material, and which is now published in English. The book is In Defiance of Fate by Vladimir Rott, a Russian-Jewish emigre now living in Canada, born in 1935 of Hungarian parents who moved to the Soviet Union in 1933. Rott’s father was arrested as a “Hungarian spy” and sent to the Gulag when he was three years old; his mother, who barely spoke Russian and had no job skills, was left alone with two small children. The family’s hardships were compounded when the war began and they found themselves under German occupation; miraculously (I won’t explain how) the Nazis did not find out that Regina Rott and her two children were Jewish.
Rott is not a professional writer; he started to write this book (of which I am now working on the second volume) for his own grandchildren. However, it is a story told (pardon the cliché) from the heart — a very authentic, vivid, dramatic tale of incredible hardship and survival. The wartime chapters are particularly gripping, and make you marvel (and shudder) at the things so many people lived through as children in that terrible age. Since I am specifically focusing on the World War II parts, I should mention that Chapter 1 deals with the fate of Rott’s relatives in Hungary during the war (and it’s pretty grim reading). For those interested in Soviet history, the book also features a chapter consisting of Rott’s father’s letters from the Gulag camps, as well as a firsthand account of the final years of Stalin’s rule (including the anti-Semitic campaign that followed the “Doctors’ Plot”) and the Khrushchev “thaw.”