When Canadian journalist Stephanie Williams set out to discover her Russian grandmother’ s long-lost history, what she unearthed was this stunning, sprawling portrait of a life lived on the grand stage of the 20th century.
Born in remote Siberia in 1900, Olga Yunter was the youngest of five children. As a teenager during the Revolution, she was a courier and arms-runner for the White Russians. After learning of the execution of her brother at the hands of the Red Army, which drew nearer every day, her father sent her to China with rubies and gold sewn into her petticoats. She would never see her family again.
The life of a Russian exile in China meant poverty and fear. But Olga was lucky. She met and married Fred Edney, and gave birth to their daughter, Irina, the author’s mother. But the creeping Japanese occupation and invasion of China forced Olga to flee with Irina to Canada, leaving Fred behind to continue working. For five years she heard almost nothing of her husband, save that he was alive in a Japanese prison camp. At the end of the war she returned to China to find him broken by his internment. The family was driven out of the country for good by the Chinese Revolution in 1949. They settled in Oxford, where Olga and Fred lived out the rest of their days.
Drawing on letters, diaries, government documents, and interviews, Stephanie Williams brings to life this gripping historical drama, sweeping in scope and illuminated by the intimate details of one woman’s extraordinary life.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Published December 18, 2007
Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel.