Elna Schdanoff & Christian Sundgren: Kirje Siperiasta [A letter from Siberia]

17 June 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kirje SiperiastaKirje Siperiasta [A letter from Siberia]
Finnish translation by Paula Autio
Helsinki: Schildts, 2008. 233 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-50-1783-3
€ 29, hardback
Swedish original: Brevet från Sibirien
Esbo: Schildts, 1997. 233 p., ill.
ISBN 951-50-0865-4
€ 29, hardback

Kirje Siperiasta is based on letters and memoirs covering a period of more than 80 years by Elna Schdanoff (Russian spelling Zhdanova, 1885–1977). Born in St Petersburg, Elna belonged to a Finland-Swedish family of industrial entrepreneurs in Russia. Her father was director of a Belgian mining and steel company, and after the revolution of 1917, her Russian husband Vadya Zhdanov became the first engineer in the Soviet steel industry. In the whirlwinds of the Revolution the Zhdanovs decided to remain in the Soviet Union. Vadya Zhdanov was executed as a spy during the Stalinist purges of 1938; Elna was sentenced to tens years of forced labour and deportation. According to the book’s editor, Zhdanova’s nephew Christian Sundgren, his aunt’s memoirs were not published in Finland when she wrote them because of the self-censorship of the Finnish press. In addition to the account of her imprisonment, the book generates interest with descriptions of Russian industry before and after the revolution. In the 1950s Zhdanova’s brother finally managed to obtain permission for his sister  to travel to Finland where she remained for the rest of her life.

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