Walnuts on My Bookshelf: Memories of Living in Communist Russia is a book that I just couldn't put down. This compelling story engrosses the reader from the very first paragraph.
Written by an Alabama paralegal, Peter Kirchikov, the book brings a unique and brilliant analysis of life during the USSR from 1952 until 1991. Born and raised in Ukraine, he discloses the poverty, horrible working conditions and fear of the KGB he had known his entire life. Kirchikov and his family were exposed to a life where food and basic necessities were almost impossible to find.
Kirchikov shares his unique experiences living in Communist Russia under the oppressive regime in the Bulgarian ethnic community and elsewhere. His captivating story from the unforgettable years in his parents' house, his school and college years, death of one of his sons as a result of Chernobyl in April 1986, and black-listing by the KGB since the tender age of 12, is an emotional journey for both reader and writer. Included in overall conditions remained the daily fear by all Russian citizens that the KGB would banish them to Siberia. As an adult, Kirchikov became a linguist, writer and full-time translator but still under the watchful eye of the KGB. The communist regime was unwilling to let Peter and his family emigrate until 1991. The "Russian Dream" for most people was escape to a Western country. .
The title refers to Peter's current routine to keep walnuts on his bookshelf to remind him of his family's yearly forage to gather walnuts in anticipation of harsh, freezing winters where food was scarce and hunger was prevalent. Losing two children to starvation, Peter's mother and father worked seven days a week to feed their family. Peter is here, he is grateful but will never allow himself to forget the heavy burden communism inflicted upon him, his family and unfortunate captives.
Peter, his beautiful wife at the time along with two children, made it to the U.S. in 1991. His amazement at the enormous and bountiful choices of food, freedom of worship, ability to travel anywhere, choice of job and freedom to select whereever you wanted to live, remains as highlights for Peter. He recalls with humor being taken to his first supermarket. He had never seen anything like it. He thought that the market surely must be the only one in town. It couldn't possibly be that all this food was in just one store and there were many, many others just like it in the city of Birmingham.
The book needs a good strong edit. Some of the sentences reflect the Russian translation that leaves out "a, an, the". On the other hand, frankly, it endears you to the writer. His letter to the KGB would otherwise seem like ranting and raving if only it were exaggerated.
Today, Peter lives and works in Birmingham. Very importantly, Peter can choose whatever profession he wants without fear. He became a paralegal symbolizing his fierce desire to uphold the justice system that he had longed for his entire life. He's built a productive life filled with dreams that have been reached, goals that have been accomplished and most of all, freedom that can't be beat.
I highly recommend this book. To purchase, go to www.peterkirchikov.com/walnuts
Available July 1, 2013
$18.00 plus shipping & handling