Disappearing History

I am currently reading (actually listening to) The Lost Roses by Martha Kelly, a book I was initially so excited about, since is is a pre-sequel to the The Lilac Girls, which I really loved However, almost immediately after I started to listen to this book, I could notice some small and not so small discrepancies. It may worth a separate post to talk about all these small “wrongs”, but the reason I am mentioning them now is, that my observation made me start to think one more time about how fast the actual “feel” of history is disappearing. I thought – maybe I loved The Lilac Girls so much, because I do not have enough knowledge to notice all these little things which are wrong?

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and these thoughts are an essential part of why I’ve started this (yet another) blog. I’ve noticed that people, who were born and raised in Russia, and partially in the Soviet Union, same as me, but who are just ten years younger than me, appear to be completely unaware of the recent history. They just didn’t live through the 60s-70s, and although there is an abundance of information available both on paper and on the internet – they somehow read it wrong.

It’s not like they are doing it on purpose – somehow it feels like they are reading the right stuff, but the words are being translated into a picture, which looks very different from reality. And when I am making attempts to explain, that things were not exactly as they think they used to be, they plainly do not believe me. Which is really upsetting taking into account the recency of events.

I won’t speak for the US, but in Russia, we already have huge chunks of history completely disappeared without any hope of the rescue. Take WWII. Those veterans, who’ve returned home alive, definitely were not “well” in the precise sense of the word. Nobody knew anything about post-traumatic syndrome those days and they were trying to cope with the trauma the way they could – trying to forget the most horrible things. It’s not like they were “not allowed” to tell the truth. Actually, to some degree, they were not, but only to some degree. Yes, they were afraid, but that’s not the whole story. They also desperately wanted to forget – and often succeeded. It would take a genius and an extraordinary personality of Daniil Granin, a famous Russian writer, to talk to the Siege of Leningrad survivors in a way that they would be willing to share their true stories. Because of his work we have some of that history. But most of it is lost forever.

The situation is even worse with the history of GULAG. I am really sorry for those who think you can study this part of modern history by Solzhenitsyn works.

Many yours ago my school friend had allowed me to read the notes her grandfather put together immediately after he was released from the concentration camp. Several “school size” notebooks, pain and horror. Haven’t read anything even remotely close to these notes ever. That’s a piece of true history. How can I make sure things like this are preserved in memory of the future generations?

Even when we talk about very recent events, historically speaking, I often observe lots of misconceptions and misunderstanding, like heroization of dissidents, elevating the role of refuzniks in Soviet society, etc.

I am not going to argue with those people who believe they know better. But while I still remember things, I am going to try to put all of those stories in writing. For the benefit of generations to come.

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