I cringed a bit when I saw that Michael Glenny (an infamously bad translator) was one of the editors of this volume, but in spite of that, I was really drawn into the book. It begins with a very long chapter on an oceanographer who escaped by jumping off of a cruise ship late at night and swimming for three days until he reached the nearest island, and goes on to give us the stories of Russian émigrés from three different eras--on the heels of the Revolution and Civil War, between the World Wars and during WWII, and in the post-WWII era. Quite a few of the people interviewed in Part One, and a fair amount in Part Two, came from the upper-classes (some were even royalty), and so had a radically different experience of those early Soviet days than did the people on the bottom of the social order. The people in Part Three all seem to be from normal classes, though, not a bunch of dispossessed countesses, governors, wealthy people, and what have you. And depending upon which socioeconomic class and geographical area one came from, the experience was going to be different; for example, someone from the ruling classes and in a place like St. Petersburg obviously was going to be against the Revolution from the start, whereas someone who lived in a poorer area in the Ukraine may have initially supported and welcomed these changes, only to find the new rulers were just as bad for them as the Tsar had been. A lot of these people went through some quite drastic things to survive and to escape, like illegally crossing borders, jumping off of a ship, forging identity cards, deserting the Army, and bribing officials, but they had to take these extraordinary measures because the idea of freedom was so very important to them. Many of them settled in places with large Russian colonies, such as London, Paris, Prague, Belgrade, Poland, Harbin (in China), Israel, the United States, Vienna, Germany, and Bulgaria, though some of them escaped to other places (at least temporarily), such as North Africa and Turkey. I loved almost all of the stories and found very few boring or uninteresting.
Since this is partly a Michael Glenny book, though, there were some things that kind of annoyed me, albeit not so much they totally overwhelmed my overall enjoyment. For example, does anyone under the age of 100 still seriously use unnecessarily gendered words like "citizeness," "poetess," or "Jewess," or make superfluous references such as "a lady congregant" or "a woman cook"? Since a lot of these interviews were translated, I'm assuming that such dated sexist expressions were the work of the translators and not the speakers. (Unlike a lot of other languages, English is not a gendered language!) The chapter on the Dowager Empress's lady-in-waiting also employed the extremely archaic custom of capitalising all royal pronouns, which seems extremely distracting and pretentious today. It might have been considered proper a hundred years ago, but the language has evolved since! Stalin's date of death is twice given as 6 March 1953, when everything else I've ever read gives it as the fifth of March. I have also never seen my favorite writer's wife referred to as "Natasha Solzhenitsyn." In the nearly twelve years I've been reading his work and learning about his life, I've only ever seen her called Alya Svetlova! Still, considering what a great resource the book is, those are admittedly comparatively minor points, however annoying and distracting. Obviously, references to and remarks about "current" events and realities in the Soviet Union are today going to be ever-more-distant history, but such is to be expected with just about any historical book; parts of it will inevitably become dated as time marches on.