Heli-Kristy Kultas-Ilinsky. Trafford Publishing, 2008, 358 pages; quality trade paperback (softcover); catalogue #08-0115; ISBN 1-4251-6977-5; US and C $23.95
The Way It Was is the story of a woman who feels obliged to write down and make an account complete, standing outside of things, she disregards totally the usual sentiment of times gone by. Exiled at four years of age to Siberia by Soviet authorities after the occupation of Estonia during the World War II in their process of what is now called ethnic cleansing, she finds herself in the bitter harshness of the barren and frigid region, where she and her mother, along with many others, was destined to extermination.
Witness to the suffering and death of helpless women and children, including her younger brother, nearly losing her mother to encephalitis, and herself going through hunger and disease, she miraculously survives. Her life unfolds in the remote parts of the vast Soviet Union, continues in postwar Estonia, follows in post-Stalinist Moscow during the period of the ‘thaw’, where she manages to obtain an excellent education and launches a successful scientific career in academia while she cares for tragically ill mother, and then starts again from scratch in America.
The book provides a fascinating eyewitness account of the cruelties and absurdities of daily life under a totalitarian regime where terror and fear is a way of life and ‘food for soul’ – arts and literature – substitute for real nourishment and other real life necessities. It’s a story of a tragedy, endurance, and luck with a happy ending.
About the author:
Heli-Kristy Kultas-Ilinsky was born in Tallinn Estonia in 1937, received Master of Science degree from Moscow State University in 1959, and Ph.D. degree in 1965 from the Brain Research Institute in Moscow. From 1965 to 1974 she was faculty member at the Institute of Biophysics of the Academy of Science of the USSR. In 1974 she emigrated to the United States, and in 1975 was appointed as Assistant Professor at St. Louis University School of Medicine, then in 1982 transferred to the University of Iowa where she served as an Associate and then Full Professor in the Department of Anatomy College of Medicine until 2001, teaching and doing research in neuroscience.
Currently she is retired and lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with her husband, Igor Ilinsky, also a neuroscientist. She has published more than 90 research articles in scientific journals, as well as several book chapters, and has been an editor of books on neuroscience topics. After retirement, she and her husband have continued their scientific pursuits in collaboration with colleagues in France and Italy.
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The way it was