The Way it Was

Exiled at four years of age to Siberia by Soviet authorities after the occupation of Estonia during World War II, in their process of what is now called ethnic cleansing, the author finds herself in the bitter harshness of the barren and frigid region, where she and her mother, along with many others, were destined for extermination. Witness to the suffering and death of helpless women and children, including her younger brother, nearly losing her mother to encephalitis, and herself going through hunger and disease, she miraculously survives. Her life unfolds in the remote parts of the vast Soviet Union, continues in postwar Estonia, follows in post-Stalinist Moscow during the period of the ‘thaw,’ where she manages to obtain an excellent education and launches a successful scientific carrier in academia while she cares for tragically ill mother, and then starts again from scratch in America. The book provides a fascinating eyewitness account of the cruelties and absurdities of daily life under a totalitarian regime where terror and fear is a way of life and ‘food for soul’—arts and literature—substitute for real nourishment and other real life necessities. It’s a story of a tragedy, endurance, and luck with a happy ending. (From description on publisher’s web site.)

Kultas-Ilinsky, Heli-Kristy
Trafford Publishing, 2008