Article first published as Book Review: ‘The Education of a Traitor’ by Svetlana Grobman on Blogcritics.
“The Education of a Traitor” by Svetlana Grobman is a memoir about growing up in Russia during the Cold War. It is the story of a young Jewish girl, who learned her place in society, and her family at a very early age. In spite of constant harassment and degradation from school mates, neighbors and even her teachers, Svetlana (called Sveta) held a hopeful yet realistic attitude for her future.
Through Sveta’s eyes we learn of the extent of repression in Soviet society. How, from the very first day of school it is drilled into the heads of children to love their country more than their family, and to report traitors, be they neighbors or family members. How children are taught to be ever appreciative of the great gifts bestowed upon them by the country and the Communist Party, including the opportunity to witness true everyday miracles, such as a sunrise.
As Sveta grows up she begins to question everything and often finds herself in trouble for merely being curious and asking questions. She suspects that many things are not what they seem and realizes that she must be strong if she is to survive or even hope to prosper.
Grobman has a brilliant gift for writing. Every sentence is meticulously crafted, but seems to have simply flowed onto the pages, each word effortless, yet necessary to the story. The use of Russian and Yiddish phrases (with translations) provide an even greater authenticity to the tone of her writing. Humor and irony fill the pages, and often seem to soften the reality of the situation being recounted.
I fell in love with Sveta. Her attitude, her strength and determination, even her moments of self-doubt were very endearing. I couldn’t help thinking throughout the story that she must be an old soul for she seemed wise beyond her years.
I highly recommend “The Education of a Traitor” by Svetlana Grobman for anyone that enjoys memoirs and anyone interested in taking a look behind the scenes of the Iron Curtain. I sincerely hope that Svetlana expands upon her memoir. I would love to hear about her life beyond her childhood.