Odysseya Preface


Life must be lived forward but it can only be understood backwards Soren Kierkegaard 1813-55

In Imperial Russia, there used to be four social classes. As in the West, the main three were the working class – peasants and labourers; the middle class or bourgeoisie – administrative personnel, merchants, clerks, professionals and clergy; and the aristocracy, including the nobility (both ‘personal’ and ‘hereditary’) and the titular (title-holders), such as princes and counts.

The fourth class, the Cossacks, was rather unique. The Cossacks were allotted land, a certain degree of autonomy and self-government. For this semiautonomy, each man was required to give twenty years of military service to the Tsar, commencing at the age of eighteen. Their services were mainly used for protection against border incursions and during times of war. At birth, the class of an individual was recorded on the birth certificate and in a special ‘Book of Births’ so there could be no future doubt as to his or her status. To some degree, the Cossack
Clans could be said to resemble the Scottish Clans; the Macgregors, MacDonalds, Campbells and so on.

This is a story which covers a period of about 200 years. It is near enough to a biography
about my family, or rather a number of families whose roots intertwine all class barriers and stretch across half the globe as they journeyed to new lands to better their lives and sometimes to save them. The story also covers briefly a period of Russian history from the beginning – the summoning of the Viking warriors to the fall of the Romanov Empire and the resulting Russian Diaspora. It does it in a way to introduce the reader, unfamiliar with the Russian beginnings, to what Russia used to be. The historical information is sourced from Old Russian chronicles, eminent historians, encyclopaedias, and word of mouth, from those who lived through some of the more recent horrors of the Russian tragedy.

The historic outline covers the development and richness of Russian thought and culture, its neverending turmoils and some of its contributions to our world.

My family’s life is deeply intertwined in Russian history and the resulting Diaspora and
typifies to the reader what millions of Russians went through during the turbulent times of the 20th century. Although I was unable to acquire all of my family’s history, I filled in the gaps the way it may have happened to the best of my ability through deductive reasoning of events – similar family behavioural patterns of blood relatives, family chitchat and factoring in of surrounding events of the time. As such I take full responsibility for any errors in the story for which I hope my ancestors will forgive me.

My grandparents and parents fled from Russia to China during the Russian Civil War
immediately after World War I. Most of my family survived two generations of the worst bloodshed, political and economic upheaval experienced during the 20th century (World War I, the Russian Civil War, Japanese occupation, World War II, Stalin’s GULAGS and Political Oppression). Although my father and two of my uncles survived Stalin’s postwar GULAGS, four of my granduncles were killed in the Russian Civil War and one distinguished himself and lived to tell the tale. Both of my grandfathers died during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, one as a result of torture, and the other from stress and related physical ailments.

My wife, who brought much love and joy to my development, experienced with her parents
and grandparents similar dislocation and turmoil in fleeing from Russia at about the same time as my family, but fleeing in the opposite direction of France and Germany. They experienced life under Hitler, the destruction of Berlin and the postwar Displaced Persons camps prior to coming here to Australia.

ODYSSEYA is available from:
(Aus) Autographed direct from author alex.vass@bigpond.com
(NZ) www.teremok.co.nz
(US & Globally) Amazon.com

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