The Russian Countess: Escaping Revolutionary Russia

Written by Edith Sollohub
Review by Janet Hancock

Impress Books have reissued this memoir, first published in 2009, to mark the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Edith Sollohub was born in 1886 into a wealthy St Petersburg family. The first quarter of the book details her childhood and early married life: winters in St Petersburg, summers on country estates. In January 1918, the family estate is nationalised. That summer, starvation a prospect, Edith takes her three sons to Estonia. She returns to St Petersburg (by now Petrograd) alone, only to be trapped by the closure of the frontier after the November armistice. The following two years are driven by her determination to be reunited with her boys. She earns money by pulling heavy loads on sledges. Devoted servants bring food from her confiscated estate. In January 1920 she arrives in Moscow with forged papers intending to reach Poland with refugees. After weeks of imprisonment she journeys westward, first as a violinist in a troupe of artistes, later as a Red Army nurse. She arrives in Poland that October by hiding in a woodshed as her unit retreats and the Poles advance. Never overwritten, and with photos and maps, this book is breathtaking, authentic, spiritual.