My sister is great at buying me books that she thinks I should read to expand my knowledge into new areas. As it is the one hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution this year she bought me for Christmas Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea by the Russian humorist Teffi.
It’s an incredible story of Teffi’s flight from Moscow to the Black Sea, told in such a light-hearted way that it makes the horrors described that much starker. The night-time walk where she accidentally turns the wrong way and comes across a body being attacked by dogs, trying to get through border checkpoints, avoiding psychotic revolutionaries who kill on a whim, and escaping hotels as the guests empty out desperately trying to get a passage on ships leaving the port.
Along the way she meets acquaintances from the Russian literary and artistic scene and is often recognised by her fellow refugees and those she is seeking help from. Living from day-to-day Teffi astutely observes how people in the worst of circumstances still grasp at normality, like making dresses out of medical gauze when there is no fabric to be found.
It’s the first time I think I have read a book about a refugee fleeing their homeland, albeit in this case a well off and well known refugee. Nevertheless it provides a fascinating insight into what actually happens when you have to pack a few possessions into a bag and head off into the unknown, not knowing where you will end up but knowing that for your safety you have to leave. It’s a fascinating read and one I would highly recommend.