Christened with Crosses is the unforgettable story of a young boy’s dangerous, adventure-
filled westbound journey along the railways of postwar Russia. Based on a true story of Kochergin’s amazing life, this book depicts the awakening of artistic talent under highly unusual Russian circumstances. It is the memoir of an old man who, as a boy, learnt to find his way between extortionate state control and marauding banditry, the two poles that characterize Russia to this day.
Orphaned when his parents are taken away as “enemies of the people”, young Stepanych finds himself a ward of the Soviet state. He is miraculously rescued from a government orphanage in Nazi-
besieged Leningrad, only to be placed in another children’s institution in Siberia—a place of Dickensian attributes, where the leaders earn nicknames like Toad and Screwface, and where the young inmates are able to live their own lives only in secret, by night. Desperately longing for his native city and his Polish mother, Bronya, Stepanych flees the orphanage soon after the end of World War II.
The eight year old boy secretly jumps on board the trains heading west, towards Leningrad. It is not only his desperate courage and his youthful agility that ensure his survival, it is also his artistic talent. With his agile fingers the boy is able to bend wire in the shape of profiles of Lenin and Stalin, as if in silhouette. He uses them to cheer up the invalid war veterans on the train stations returning from the front, who then give him a piece of bread, a bowl of soup and who, in a spirit of comradeship, warn him of the railway police and the secret service henchmen wanting to send the runaway back to the orphanage. Eduard spends more than six years on the run, experiencing close encounters with post-
war Russia where life and fate have become synonyms.
*The book’s title Christened with Crosses comes from the old prison slang. The phrase used to be a password among convicts in the most famous Russian prisons otherwise known as ‘crosses’ were political detainees were sent to cells with hard core thieves.
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This tale of Kochergin's life truly is amazing! Action-packed, it is full of tension and drama. The events are well-described, as are the places that the reader journeys through along with our narrator.
It is often hard to believe that this really happened to anyone! The world which we find ourselves emersed in is so different from that of the western world in which most of us live. Its hard to imagine living in such a situation.
Throughout the difficult times, this book tells of hope and determination. It has the potential to give hope to even the most lost, and is truly educational in its own right.
Those more familiar with dyspotian novels will be surprised how familiar this story seems, whilst readers of travel logs will be interested by the variety of places mentioned. Anyone who enjoys stories about individuals and human interactions will find much to fascinate. I truly recommend this book and hope any who try it will enjoy it as much as I have.
Buy Christened With Crosses
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