Let me open with: I love Russian Literature. The cold, the melancholy. There is something about Russian stories; they speak to my soul. I’m not sure why, or how Russia has snuck into my psyche, as it’s not somewhere I have ever been. But I am planning to, and oh am I planning. Earlier in the week, and shamelessly taking advantage of the cheap airfares caused by the Corona Virus pandemic, I booked my Christmas holiday. To Europe.
More importantly, to Germany and RUSSIA.
In preparation for this trip, I started making lists. List of places I wanted to go to in Moscow, reasonably concise, but still, a list. Then I went back and started making my list of places I want to see in St Petersburg. I stopped when I got to 22 places for my own six days. I realise most of these will need to be culled down, but it was a good starting point. From this list, most of my items from the World War Two era of places I want to see comes from Paullina Simons: Six Days in Leningrad.
Six days in Leningrad was initially published back in 2013, and I read it at the time, as I read anything written by Paullina Simons, but it’s not a book I have re-read in a few years. The book tells the story of Paullina visiting Leningrad (now St.Petersburg) with her Papa for the first time since she left as a young girl and conducting researching the epic The Bronze Horseman. I would recommend reading The Bronze Horseman before reading six days in Leningrad, as it adds so much to you, but as a stand-alone travel series, it would probably still make me laugh.
Paullina’s research begins as precisely that – places she wants to see and ends being a very personal history as well. She sees where her father was sentenced to the GULAG, she goes back to 5th Soviet, and into the apartments that she and her parents lived before immigrating to the USA. She and her Papa visit their old summer Dacha and visit their family friends from before. It was so refreshing to see Paullina’s memories from childhood and how they compared in her adult eyes. While I can’t compare, living a very different idyllic childhood in Australia, I still found it very moving, and fascinating. Surely we can all relate to visiting somewhere we love and but to remember with our vision softened with age.
Following this, I also found it to be a very interesting time for her and her Papa to have visited Russia. The Romanovs were having a funeral and being interred after having been found in the woods outside Ekaterinburg. If you are a fan of the Bronze Horseman or Paullina’s works in general, I highly recommend reading Six days in Leningrad. If you are planning on going to St Petersburg, I recommend reading six days in Leningrad. In the meantime, I’ll go back to making my list.