Adult Nonfiction DK34.A45 T96 2008
Summary: A remarkable piece of forgotten history—the story of how thousands of Americans were lured to Soviet Russia by the promise of jobs and better lives only to meet a tragic, and until now forgotten, end The Forsaken starts with a photograph of a baseball team. The year is 1934, the image black and white: two rows of young men, one standing, the other crouching with their arms around one another’s shoulders. They are all somewhere in their late teens or twenties, in the peak of health. We know most, if not all, of their names: Arthur Abolin, Walter Preeden, Victor Herman, Eugene Peterson. They hail from ordinary working families from across America—Detroit, Boston, New York, San Francisco. Waiting in the sunshine, they look just like any other baseball team except, perhaps, for the Russian lettering on their uniforms. These men and thousands of others, their wives, and children were possibly the least heralded migration in American history. Not surprising, maybe, since in a nation of immigrants few care to remember the ones who leave behind the dream. The exiles came from all walks of life. Within their ranks were Communists, trade unionists, and radicals of the John Reed school, but most were just ordinary citizens not overly concerned were politics. What united them was the hope that drives all emigrants: the search for a better life. And to any one of the millions of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression, even the harshest Moscow winter could sustain that promise. Within four years of that June day in Gorky Park, many of the young men in that photograph will be arrested and along with them unaccounted numbers of their fellow countrymen. As foreign victims of Stalin’s Terror, some will be executed immediately in basement cells or at execution grounds outside the main cities. Others will be sent to the “corrective labor” camps, where they will be starved and worked to death, their bodies buried in the snowy wasteland. Two of the baseball players who survive and whose stories frame this remarkable work of history will be inordinately lucky. This book is the story of these mens’ lives— The Forsaken who lived and those who died. The result of years of groundbreaking research in American and Russian archives, The Forsaken is also the story of the world inside Russia at the time of Terror: the glittering obliviousness of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, the duplicity of the Soviet government in its dealings with Roosevelt, and the terrible finality of the Gulag system. In the tradition of the finest history chronicling genocide in the twentieth century, The Forsaken offers new understanding of timeless questions of guilt and innocence that continue to plague us today.
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