On a midsummer day in 1937, the young Commissar Boris Bibikov kissed his two daughters goodbye and disappeared into the official Packard waiting outside. It was the last time his family ever saw him. Arrested by Stalin's secret police, the loyal Party man confessed to a grotesque series of crimes against the Revolution. His wife, an Enemy of the People by association, was sent to the gulag, leaving the young Lyudmila and Lenina alone to face separation in a world turned suddenly cold. Lyudmila grew up a fighter, and when she fell in love with a tall young foreigner in Moscow at the height of the Cold War, she knew there would be further battles ahead. Naively infatuated with Russia, Mervyn Matthews had embarked on a dangerous flirtation with the KGB. But when finally asked to work for the organisation, he refused. Revenge came quickly: Mervyn was thrown out of the country; Lyudmila lost her job. For six years, stranded on opposite sides of the ideological divide that shaped their generation, they kept their love alive in a daily stream of letters - some anguished, some funny, but all suffused with a hope that they would eventually be reunited. Decades later, Owen Matthews pieces together his grandfather's passage through the harrowing world of Stalin's purges, and tells the story of his parents' Cold War love affair through their letters and memories. Interspersed with the story of his family is his own journey as a young reporter in nineties Moscow. This is a raw, vivid memoir about a young man's struggle to understand his parents' lives and the strange country which 'made us and freed us and very nearly broke us.'
Owen Matthews was born in London in 1971. He studied Modern History at Oxford University before beginning his career as a freelance journalist in Bosnia. His stories have appeared in a number of publications including the Spectator, Harper's and Queen and Private Eye, the Times and Sunday Times, the Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Mail and the Times Literary Supplement. From 1995 to 1997 he worked at The Moscow Times, a daily English-language newspaper in Moscow, with forays into Lebanon and Afghanistan.
In 1997 Owen became a correspondent for Newsweek magazine, covering the second Chechen war as well as Russian politics and society. From 2001 to 2006 he was based in Istanbul, covering the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2006 he has combined the jobs of Newsweek's Moscow bureau chief and Istanbul correspondent. Owen is the author of Stalin's Children: Three Generations of Love and War, published by Bloomsbury in June 2008, which was shortlisted for that year's Guardian First Books Award and the Orwell Prize for Political Writing, and listed among the Books of the Year by the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and the Spectator. Stalin's Children has been translated into twenty languages, and the French edition (Les Enfants de Staline, Belfond, 2009) was shortlisted for the Prix Medicis Etranger 2009 and the Grand Prix des Lectrices d'Elle 2010.