Saturday, January 2, 2010

Russian Winters

A Train to Potevka Soldat: Reflections of a German Soldier, 1936-1949

I had a wonderful opportunity to see Mike Ramsdell speak at a fireside in our stake where he made frequent references to his book A Train to Potevka. He was very engaging and his stories were fascinating! As soon as I left the building, I asked my mom if she could pick me up a copy of his book from the place that she works. It turned out that she had one on hand, so I borrowed it to read during our visit out to Oregon.
The book is the authors account of a time when he was a spy working for the United States Government in the last days of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately something went terribly wrong with the mission, so he was forced to evacuate to a safe house in the middle of nowhere, where he eventually found safety and a miracle that saved his life.
In the process of telling this story the author does a fantastic job of weaving in narratives of the rest of his life by using flashbacks and making observations.  It is easy to read and totally enthralling- I finished it in a couple days.Altogether this is a very compelling and interesting read, and I highly recommend it!
The other book for today, Soldat, is very different and is only really similar to the other one because much of both of them are set against the harsh backdrop of the Russian Winter. Soldat is an autobiography of Siegfried Knappe, a officer in the German Army during the Second World War. The books is divided into three parts: The Siege of Berlin and his being taken prisoner by the Soviet Army, an account of the author’s early life and military career throughout the war, and finally his years in captivity in the Soviet Union and his eventual return to East Germany and then his escape to the United States.
It is a very interesting account and it brings home the fact that there were so many ordinary people involved in such extraordinary events throughout history. I won’t spoil too much of the book for your, but I will say that I’ve you’ve seen the movie Valkiere and liked it, then you’d love this book (it has a little bit less intrigue, but a lot more happy ending). I recommend the book, but only if you’re in the mood to be melancholy and only if you have some patience (it does drag a bit, and is pretty long).