Accidental Spy Series, action adventure, author interview, Dr. Zhivago, Gold Train, Jade Snow, May Day, Mikhail Bulgakov, Moscow, mystery thriller, Russia, Russian literature, Russian Revolution, Saint Petersburg, Soviet Union
GOLD TRAIN Blog Tour continues! Today please enjoy a very special interview, which I call The Centerpiece of the Gold Train Blog Tour.
Don’t forget to check out other awesome blog stops, Gold Train reviews and giveaways here!
Reblogged from Different Outcomes blog by author Jason Sullivan:
Today I would like to welcome linguist and writer Lada Ray to the Different Outcomes blog. She is here to discuss her new exciting thriller Gold Train. Perhaps she might also share with us a little about her fascinating life growing up in Russia.
Jason: I would prefer to ask a few somewhat atypical questions, which might give you the possibility of going deeper into them. The areas that fascinate me, although the whole book is so wonderfully exciting, are the following:
The White Army connection with modern Russia, its historical background and current association with other countries, is very interesting. I fear most Americans have a very superficial understanding of the Russian Revolution, and especially the White Army. I always remember the scene from Dr Zhivago when they are crossing a field and are ambushed! In your book you obviously have a more complex and, I think I may say, holistic approach to this conflict. Perhaps not dissimilar to how some Americans have come to view their own Civil War as an opportunity to move beyond differences, although some are still fighting it! But you put forth this sense of pride in Russia, in wanting a healthy Russia which has healed from past conflicts and which is not manipulated by foreign interests. So, I don’t know if that is all one question, or maybe more, but generally, maybe you could share some more with us this unique sense we get in the book, perhaps possible only from an author born in Russia!
Lada: These are some wonderful questions, Jason, and I’ll try answering them, remaining as entertaining and educational as possible.
I love your definition of my approach to the conflict as “holistic.” I think, most Russians have come to view it as such, having made peace with it and having been able to understand both sides’ point of view. A huge credit for this goes to the educational value of the Soviet and Russian literature and film. These topics, especially the Civil War, are perennial favorites in Russia.
During the Soviet era, more emphasis was put on the role of the Red Army, but starting with the mid 1980’s, when Gorbachev came to power, more attention was given to the White movement. That said, the books written/movies made during the Soviet era did a great job portraying the conflict thoughtfully and evenhandedly.
I grew up with many amazing movies and books, and Dr. Zhivago was only one of them. An excellent book, to be sure, and the one that had a profound effect on the Western society, but hardly the only, and some even think, not even the best in the long line of books/movies about the Russian Civil War. The books/movies I am talking about all portrayed the conflict in a rather balanced way, even if they sided with the Red Army and Bolsheviks ideologically. The human element, motivations, depth of drama – all that was amazingly done.
I think, due to the politics and the wall that existed, and to the extent still does exist between the American and Russian cultures, Americans have a very distorted understanding of the history and implications of the 1917 Revolution and Civil War. I have to say that on average the Europeans and the rest of the world have a much better comprehension of the Russian history.
I want to mention a few movies and books, which come to mind immediately when we talk about the subject – all great in their own right. These are the classics, and those who have an interest in Russian history will find them not only enlightening, but also immensely entertaining. If you can find any of these with English subs or translation, they are well worth watching or reading. I suggest checking out YouTube, you never know what treasures you may uncover there. As to the books, the English translations of these classics should be readily available.
Movie Beg – The Flight, 1970. Based on the play by Mikhail Bulgakov, Flight. A dramatic and memorable epic about destinies and emigration to Istanbul and Paris of several senior officers and other White Russians during the Civil War. The characters are painted with profound humanity. Great cast, too!
Movie Dni Turbinykh – Days of The Turbins, 1976. Based on the highly acclaimed novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, The White Guard. One of my favorites growing up, boasting tremendous cast of actors. Also about the destinies of several White Russians with different personalities and views. Resolves the conflict in favor of staying in Russia, rather than emigrating. The movie is worth watching not only for the drama and character development, but also for humor and great songs.
As an aside, Mikhail Bulgakov is widely recognized as one of the great authors and visionaries of the 20th century. I also highly recommend his mega-popular, cult book: Master and Margarita. Set in the 1930’s Moscow, it is a dark fantasy about a writer and his trials and tribulations against the backdrop of the Stalinist Russia, his forbidden romance with Margarita, complicated by the appearance of the Devil himself. But that’s not all; inserted within the novel is the story of life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Part of the book takes place in mystical realms of Heaven and Earth. The imagery and philosophy of the book is incredibly striking. It is available in English, moreover, the recently made wonderful mini-series based on Master and Margarita can be purchased on Amazon with English subs. You can probably also sample it on YouTube.
But back to the Russian Civil War: TV Series Adyutant Evo Prevoskhoditelstva – Adjutant of His Excellency, 1969. An excellent mini series about a Red/Soviet spy, who infiltrated the headquarters of the White Army and became personal adjutant to the commander in chief. Needless to say, he was able to thwart some major operations by the Whites, until he was discovered. To add to the drama, the spy, beautifully portrayed by the famous Russian actor, Yury Solomin, falls in love with the daughter of the chief security officer of the White Army, the man who is constantly on his trail. Plus, the series includes some great train action, where a very valuable train, containing advanced tanks and machinery, sent by the West for the Whites, gets blown up! Couldn’t have written it better myself!
Tikhiy Don – And Quiet Flows The Don. Both a book and epic movie about the role of Cossacks in the 1918 Civil War, some of whom sided with the Whites and others with the Reds. An absolute classic of the Soviet literature by Mikhail Sholokhov. For years, Soviet literature had been shunned by the Nobel Prize Committee for political and ideological reasons. Pity, there were many works that deserved to be considered and awarded. Mikhail Sholokhov was one of the few Russian authors who, along with Boris Pasternak, author of Dr. Zhivago, received the Nobel Prize for literature.
Recent Russian Movie:
Moi Admiral – My Admiral, 2008. Starring Konstantin Habensky, known in the West for his acclaimed role in Night Watch and Day Watch, dark fantasies, set in today’s Moscow. Moi Admiral is about the famous leader of the White Movement, Admiral Kolchak, his life, romance and drama. Kolchak was eventually betrayed by the Tsar’s Army Czech Corps who initially sided with the Whites, but eventually handed Kolchak over to the Reds who ended up executing him. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it received some tremendous press.
I want to let you in on my secret. I wasn’t planning on announcing it just yet, but since we are on this topic, I thought I’d give my readers a sneak peek of what’s to come in the Jade Snow Series. As you may know, this year I will be releasing the next Jade Snow adventure – DRAGON GATE, set in Asia. But after that, in Jade’s third adventure, she will head back to Russia, specifically, to the legendary Lake Baikal in Siberia, for the continuation of the Tsar’s Gold saga. Incidentally, the story of Admiral Kolchak and his betrayal by the Czech Corps is intrinsically connected to the treasure. I’ll say no more so not to spoil the surprise… and I am planning lots of those in the following books!
Jason: Another aspect of the book, which fascinates me is your opening, it is so wonderfully written, where the train is pirated. You also feature beautiful modern trains and stations in Russia. And then we hear you have personal experience because your father worked for the train system in Russia. I love trains! I think everyone does. They are so romantic! So anything you might think of with regard to your inside perspective or childhood memories of trains. Is the great gold robbery the most infamous of Russian train stories? Are there other famous train stories in Russia that you might relate? What sort of role did trains play in the history of Russia? And, also, and this might be the most interesting to readers, what specific memories might you share about riding through the Russian countryside and into the cities by train? What was it like, what were the passengers like, any exciting moments?
Lada: The trains had always played a huge role in the Russian history. Unlike in the USA, historically, the Russian roads had been in pretty bad condition and the auto industry hadn’t developed to the extent it has in the USA. Although Russia is a major power in aeronautics, civil aviation had lagged and is only now starting to mature. Moreover, due to the vastness of the country’s landmass with seas surrounding it, the ships had been important, but not universally usable.
That left trains and related vehicles as the primary source of transportation. Russia inherited the Soviet public transportation system, which was very well developed and maintained. Within smaller cities, you had a comprehensive network of trams and trolleys (trolleybus), aided by some bus traffic (usually for longer express journeys). In larger cities, primarily Moscow and St. Petersburg, the most popular mode of transportation was, still is (and probably will always be) the truly one-of-a-kind Russian Metro. Moscow Metro, in addition to being a beautiful underground architectural miracle, is also the second busiest metro in the world, after Tokyo’s Twin Cities metro, carrying 8 million passengers a day. St. Petersburg Metro, considered by some to be even more beautiful, and the world’s deepest, is also the 5th busiest on the planet. The Russian Metro is featured in Gold Train, including one of the most dramatic episodes of the book.
For connections between cities and suburbs, people normally use local diesel and electric trains, called “Electrichka.” And for long-distance travel, regular trains, expresses, and lately, high-speed trains. Sapsan, the high-speed train, connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg, is featured in Gold Train as well.
Three generations of the Russian Trains:
Traditional Nokolayevsky Express, Moscow – Saint Petersburg, the one Jade rode in Gold Train (named after the last Russian Tsar Nicolas)
High-speed train Sapsan featured in Gold Train
Of course, the challenge now is to transition this very comprehensive, well-oiled, but aging system into the 21st century, preserving its heritage, yet innovating it to suit tomorrow’s needs.
Just like you, Jason, I love trains and could talk about them for ages. For now I’ll be getting off my soapbox.
To answer your question about the robbery of the Gold Reserve of the Russian Empire in 1918. Let’s remember that GOLD TRAIN, although based on real historic events, is a book of fiction and the events as described in the prologue are a product of my imagination or are used fictitiously, according to the disclaimer on the book’s copyright page. There are many theories as to how the Gold Reserve really disappeared and there is no consensus to this day as to what happened to the treasure. We can definitely say that more than one train was involved.
I hinted in GOLD TRAIN that there is more treasure to be found. This hint was made for a reason. As mentioned earlier, I intend to explore this story further, when Jade together with Alexei, travels to Lake Baikal in Siberia during her third adventure.
Were there any other famous events related to trains in the Russian history? During the Civil War, trains were attacked and robbed regularly. Let’s remember that in addition to the main opposing forces in that conflict, the Whites and the Reds, there was a rainbow of different factions – the Greens (this was the color used by the bandits and robbers, not the Green Party), The Blacks (anarchists), and even The Yellow-Blues (I’m not kidding – these were the Ukrainian nationalists).
The bandits and so many others just wanted to capitalize on the general disorder, confusion and misfortune, and robberies of peaceful passenger trains were frequent, reminiscent of the Wild West page in the US history.
After the war ended and order in the county was restored, very few robberies took place due to tough law enforcement. Of course during World War II, lots of Russian treasures were looted by the Nazis from the museums and taken to Germany and some other countries. The most famous of them is the looting of the legendary Amber Room, considered by some to be the Eight’s Wonder of the World. It was stolen from Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg and its whereabouts are unknown to this day.
For more about this, read my post on Lada Ray Blog: Tsars, Oligarchs and Treasure: St. Petersburg, Russia.
When I grew up in Russia, the travel on trains, or any other mode of transportation was 100% safe. Robberies were unheard of. Even petty crime was rare. I remember once, the crime of the year was that someone was snatching fur hats from people’s heads. The culprits were eventually apprehended and the “wave of hat snatching” had stopped.
I was born in Moscow, but grew up in Odessa, on the Black Sea, where both of my parents worked for the Southern Railways. My father did financial/legal audits and traveled a lot; my mother’s job description was to sit at the headquarters and regulate railroad’s traffic for any given sector. I remember as a child visiting her huge office with tall ceilings and soundproof walls (so that she wouldn’t get distracted when she was on duty, as a single mistake on her part could cause a collision). The office was large enough to do cartwheels in. On the wall she had an enormous map of the entire Southern Railroad, dotted with glittering lights, signifying passing trains, signals and intersecting tracks. All this looked awfully important. 😉
On long-distance trains, there are 3 main classes: 1st, 2nd and 3rd. I normally rode 2nd class, as it was free for me. I took 1st class only when I was with my father, who due to his job had free 1st class tickets.
Second class sleeper coupe, or compartment, has 4 bunk beds on two levels, with upper bunks pulled up during the day, luggage compartments and a foldable table in the center. The trains usually have nice rugs in corridors and compartments and are very clean and cozy.
The beds have mattresses, pillows and fresh linens and are quite comfortable to sleep in. First class has 2 bunk beds, which turn into plush sofas during the day. Each 1st and 2nd class compartment has a door, which can be locked for privacy. 3rd class has no doors and there are 6 bunks per unit – two of them next to the corridor. 3rd class doesn’t have any rugs, plus there is no privacy at all. The whole carriage would usually buzz all day long as people chat, sing songs and play guitar. It’s certainly much more sociable – and much cheaper. Many younger people would travel 3rd class to save money.
Russians love feeling cozy and comfortable on long-distance trains. They usually bring a pair of slippers and even robes and pajamas to change into. Russian trains provide tea in traditional thin glasses in silver holders or in porcelain cups as part of their service. I have the fondest memories of these tea glasses in silver holders. The scene in Gold Train, when Jade rides the overnight express from Moscow to St. Petersburg echoes my childhood memories.
As part of my parents’ job perks, they always had free train tickets, which I’ve always put to good use. I traveled ever since I can remember, often alone. I was always an adventurer at heart and staying put in one place wasn’t for me. It was so safe to ride a train to another city even as a ten or twelve year old, that I often did just that.
My uncle and aunt lived in Bendery and my much older cousin Sasha (Alexander) in Kishinev (Chisinau), Moldova. Currently, these two cities are located in different countries, as Moldova split in two parts after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. I loved visiting my relatives and did that ever since I was eleven. My mother would usually take me to the station and put me on the train. Two hours later in Bendery, I would jump off the train, walk two blocks to my uncle and aunt’s house and surprise them. Then, my aunt Zeena would usually dial my mother and admonish her for letting me travel without any supervision. My kindly Uncle Vasya and Aunt Zeena never managed to get used to the level of my independence.
Once, my mother put me on the train to visit my older cousin Vera, who lived in Nikolayev, a city about four hours east of Odessa. Nikolayev was one of the Black Sea’s Soviet fleet bases, where Vera’s husband was a naval officer. It was the first time I was traveling to that particular city, as my relatives had only recently moved there. I was about twelve at the time. Vera and her husband were supposed to meet me at the train station.
It was late afternoon and my mother was late for work. Feeling distracted, she put me on the wrong train. I knew that I would be in Nikolayev by eight thirty p.m. and Vera’s husband would be waiting for me on the platform. I realized that something was wrong when the train made its final stop at some tiny, godforsaken station in the middle of nowhere and the last two passengers quickly dismounted and disappeared into the darkness stretching beyond the single light illuminating the tiny platform. It was past nine p.m.
The small station building was dark. Obviously, the staff left for the day. I realized immediately that I was, for lack of a better word, screwed. Now, let’s remember, it was well before cell phones.
Thank goodness for my sharp reflexes. As the train was preparing to leave and the conductor, an indifferent-looking woman, was about to snap the train door shut, I dashed to her and explained the situation. She said that the train was going to the depot, some ten kilometers away, and there was nothing she could do. Turned out, my mother (the big train specialist that she was) had not only put me on the wrong train, but also on the train going in the wrong direction. As a result, I was nowhere near Nikolayev. Before long, the whole crew was gathered around, trying to figure out what to do with me. I decided not to tell them who I really was so they wouldn’t start fussing, or god forbid, put me on the train back home. I wanted to continue with my adventure.
Someone remembered that another train would pass this station shortly. It wasn’t an express and it would make all local stops, but it would get me to Nikolayev. I waited on the dark, deserted platform, and lo and behold, thirty minutes later a train did stop. It was indeed headed towards Nikolayev, but there was a problem. I didn’t have enough for the ticket. My mother gave me a few rubles for the road, but since I was to be met by my loving cousin’s family, who was supposed to take care of all my expenses, she didn’t bother giving me any more.
The conductor looked at me and said that I should put my money away. She gave me a seat in the third class compartment and brought some tea (again for free) in that same thin, gold-rimmed glass set in the traditional Russian silver holder, which I always remember with warmth. The scene that I experienced many times in my life – the conductor (stewardess) bringing tea in a glass with silver holder – is described in Gold Train.
I drank tea and munched on cookies the other passengers in the sociable 3rd class shared with me. The train arrived to Nikolayev at dawn. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the main train station, but the auxiliary one, located very far from the city itself. I went around, asking people how to get to the center of the city. They said that trolley traffic started at six. I waited till six and boarded the first trolley. It took me almost an hour to get to the city center.
There was another problem, which would have stumped anyone – but not me. When my mother so infamously put me on the wrong train, no one bothered to provide me with my cousin’s address. Because, well, because it was assumed I didn’t need one, since my relatives would be meeting me at the station. Thank goodness for my memory. I happened to catch a quick glimpse of that address when my mother was handling it earlier and I miraculously managed to remember it.
While on the trolley, I started asking other passengers where the 5th Greenhouse Drive might be. I am not kidding, this was the name of the street! Of course, as you can imagine, no one had the faintest idea where such street was to be found. But I persevered. Finally, one man said that he thought that I should get off on the next stop and walk a few blocks. I took a chance and got off. As I walked, I kept asking passersby and little by little I was directed to the right street. I walked along the narrow, hidden alley and located my cousin’s house. I knocked on the door, which was opened by Igor, my disheveled looking cousin in law, followed by similarly disheveled Vera. Both didn’t sleep all night. It turned out, the entire railroad, as well as local police, were searching for me, task made ever more difficult by the fact that my mother forgot which train she put me on. When I knocked, my cousin thought it was the police with news. The room was full of smoke, as Igor, who had recently quit, started smoking again to settle his nerves.
Needless to say, everyone was immensely relieved that I was okay. I think I became a minor legend in my circles, as everyone asked me to recount my adventures over and over again. And of course, going forward, I made sure I had all the emergency information at my disposal whenever I traveled.
This is just one of my little railroad adventures. There are many more, but that is another story altogether.
Jason: Jade Snow is a magnificent character, so smart, sexy and fearless! She is such a real character, I think the reader gets a very strong sense for Jade and immediately likes her, will follow her anywhere. I think part of this, as well, is a sense of honesty. We feel we can trust Jade to tell it like it is! So if you would talk a little about what was involved with creating this character, a wonderful character that can really carry a long series, I think readers and writers alike will be fascinated by this.
Lada: I have to confess: I am very fond of Jade! I love her not only as one of my characters – my creation – but also as a person. You hit the nail on the head. She is smart, sexy and fearless. Yes, she is all that. But what’s more, she is absolutely and brutally honest. Not just with others, but with herself, which is a much more difficult thing to do. There are many ways we as humans indulge in self-deception. Jade wouldn’t have any of that.
There is an expression in Russian, which is normally reserved for males: “With him, I’d go into battle.” In this case I can honestly say, with Jade I’d easily go into battle. In other words, Jade can be absolutely trusted. With everything – from the world’s largest treasure to someone’s life. And that, together with her zest for life and passion, is an enormous part of her sex appeal. Even her little deceptions come from a higher place.
Several years back, when I was flying to Asia via Dubai, I met some international journalists returning from Afghanistan, who told me stories of their adventures. As I was boarding my plane, the image of Jade Snow, complete with her flaming hair and unusual blue-green eyes appeared before me. It occurred to me that this young, sassy , beautiful journalist would make an amazing heroine for the international adventure series. I soon started writing my first novel, STEPFORD USA, prequel to the Jade Snow International Adventure Series. In it, Jade, 28, gets stuck in an idyllic town in the Berkshires, MA, where she is supposed to take it easy before the birth of her child. But this little sheltered paradise is hiding a terrible secret, which Jade must uncover, risking her own and her unborn baby’s lives. Next I wrote a short novella, GREEN DESERT, describing Jade’s experience in Iraq, before the start of the series.
When I stumbled upon the story of the lost Russian Imperial Gold, I knew – this was to be Jade’s next adventure. Now that the series has taken off, the characters and stories write themselves.
I didn’t plan it to be first person narrative. I am a third person gal, generally. But it’s as if Jade insisted on telling the story herself – and there was nothing I could do about it! There is some of me in Jade (what writer can resist that!), and that’s why it’s so easy to write her.
Correction: I don’t really write her. She just tells me her story and I transcribe it on paper.
Jade Snow adventures continue! There are many more mysteries to solve, conspiracies to uncover and wrongs to right. There is also much happiness to find.
DRAGON GATE, the next adventure set in Asia, is coming in 2012. More information is available at my official author website: http://www.LadaRay.com.
Dear reader, I hope you’ll join me for the future Jade Snow Adventures, where Jade and I promise you a non-stop thrill ride with heart!
GOLD TRAIN GIVEAWAY: Please leave a comment to be entered to win a GOLD TRAIN ebook on 5/6, including the *required info! What is the required info? See here!
Jason: I think one thing that is a little confusing to Americans is the situation with the royal families in Russia. What was their lifestyle like, who were the major families, what is their current status, are they living abroad, etc. What were their houses like? I get the sense some of them were richly adorned palaces! Have you been in some of these, if so might you share your experience?
Lada: This is a very complex question and I’ll just scratch the surface with my brief answer. The lifestyle of the Russian royalty was very opulent and, as Lenin would put it, “they were very far from the people.” This is why the 1917 Revolution happened: the people, simply put, had had enough. World War I and its devastation had become the ultimate trigger.
Actually, some of the legendary Russian noble family names are mentioned in Gold Train. Although used fictitiously, as specified in the disclaimer, most are real historic names.
The Romanovs were of course the Imperial family. Prince Obolensky, Duchess Golitsina (sometimes the Dukes Golitsin would be referred to as Princes as well), Baron Vrangel, Count Vorontsov, Count Goncharov, Duke Menshikov (or Prince Menshikov) are all real historical names. Only Jade’s name – Countess Rosanova – is fictitious, as I wanted her to stand out and have her own identity.
Opulent ballroom at Catherine Palace, Pushkin, Saint Petersburg. Ballroom a little like this one is featured in Gold Train
Menshikov Palace on Neva Embankment, Saint Petersburg. In Gold Train, the Menshikov Mansion plays a prominent role and is owned by the oligarch, Yury Gurevich. Of course, the real Menshikov Palace is owned by the State and is a museum.
Please read more about the world of the Russian royalty in my upcoming article: Fact and Fiction in Gold Train, coming to Lada Ray Blog on May 6, 2012.
After the revolution, many of the royalty became part of the White Movement, some emigrated right away and others stayed, hoping the White army crushes the Bolsheviks and restores the monarchy. But this was not meant to be, and most of those who remained to fight the Bolsheviks ended up emigrating between 1918 and 1920.
This process was far from orderly. It was usually more like fleeing, boarding the last ship out or cramming into the last train, as the Bolsheviks gained and the Whites lost ground, and leaving everything behind in the process. Many ended up in Istanbul, Paris and even China penniless, forced to work at jobs far from glamorous – something they’ve never done in their lives – just to survive. For more on this, please watch the movies/read books I recommended earlier.
Meanwhile, those who had enough foresight, escaped with the family jewels (unless they had been robbed) or had foreign bank accounts and family connections to sustain them during their emigration.
The minority stayed in the Soviet Union and adjusted to their best ability. Some even thrived.
Presently, many former nobles live in the USA, France, Holland, UK and other Western European countries. Many have returned to Russia, which now welcomes them with open arms. Some of the events and aristocratic characters in GOLD TRAIN echo my own experiences. And although used fictitiously in the book, The Royal Society does exist in Russia.
It should be mentioned that most descendants of the noble houses of Russia are currently of very mixed blood, as described in Gold Train.
I’ve been to lots of palaces owned by the former Russian royalty. Extremely lavish and expansive, most are presently owned by the state and are museums, as well as various cultural establishments. The majority have been lovingly maintained during the Soviet days, but were somewhat neglected during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Recently, the new Russia again started heavily investing into maintaining its cultural heritage.
Jason: And finally, since my blog tour day will be May 1st, perhaps you could explain May Day a little from a Russian perspective. Is it a big deal in
Russia? How is it celebrated, has it changed since the end of the Soviet Union? Is there a Spring connection?
Lada: It is my pleasure to talk a little about May 1, or May Day – “Pervomay,” as it is traditionally called in Russian.
The Holiday, considered International Labor Day, is celebrated widely in Europe, China Latin America and of course, in Russia. During the Soviet days, every city and town would host massive parades and demonstrations. Each company or government office would rally its workers and their families. Nurseries and kindergartens would have Pervomay parties with kids dressing up and singing, dancing, performing. Oh yeah, kids also got showered with gifts, usually lots of candy and chocolates, both from their parents’ place of work and through their day care.
May Day shot of my kindergarten class after a performance. I am sitting in the first row, second from left. Poster on the right wall says: “World Peace.”
If you imagine it was all done under the barrel of a gun, think again. It was actually quite festive, and again, similar celebrations are common throughout Europe today, as thisday is supposed to demonstrate the international solidarity of the workers. I was still very little when these mass parades, or demonstrations as they were called in the USSR, still took place.
I remember lots of red banners, colorful balloons and a sea of spring flowers. I also remember the incredible spring smell. I spent my childhood in Odessa, a southern city on the Black Sea, with gentle sun and breezes blowing from the bay, with lilac, jasmine and acacia trees in bloom. Russians love their flowers, and between bunches of tulips in people’s hands and blooming flowerbeds, trees and bushes, the whole city smelled like an enormous celebratory bouquet.
Every office or company carried their own insignia and banners to identify themselves and display their achievements. As with a lot of other kids, I’d usually have the best seat in the house, riding on my father’s shoulders. Uplifting music played everywhere, from live bands, trying to outdo each other, and from the loudspeakers installed on every corner. People would dance and sing on streets. The whole city turned into a massive, joyfully buzzing beehive. It was loads of fun.
Then, the country started slowly turning away from its socialist traditions and Pervomay demonstrations became smaller and smaller. When Gorbachev came to power, a lot of the old Soviet traditions were modified or eliminated.
The new generation, as we grew up, developed very different interests. As a linguist and translator, mine lay abroad, as I spent most of my time traveling while in college. In the late 1980s, I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on under my very nose, even though my friends and I would still often celebrate Pervomay as it was intended – in nature or somewhere on the beach. We would burn fires, bake potatoes, make shashlik (Russian shish kebob), and sing to the accompaniment of a guitar. I have to say, to this day I miss these outings. In 1991, I left the country permanently and finished my education abroad. Shortly thereafter, the Soviet Union had peacefully and quietly ceased to exist.
I have to say, that tomato and corn on the cob were delicious (homemade hot corn, straight from the stove and a perennial favorite treat for beach goers in Odessa, was sold by babushkas at the entrance to the beach… yum!)
One fine day in the Caucasus mountains. Me and one very cute monkey 😉
Today as I understand, Pervomay is still celebrated in the Soviet fashion by Communist party members, which is the second most popular party in Russia after Putin’s ruling United Russia party.
The roots of the holiday are actually pagan. The indigenous pagan populations of Europe, including the continent’s largest Celtic and Rus cultures, celebrated May Day in nature, with lots of spring flowers, bonfires, music, dance and good food, to greet the beginning of the warm season. You can still see traces of this ancient holiday in, say, Ukrainian 19th century literature and Celtic legends. Today’s Wiccans celebrate this holiday, too.
But with the advent of the modern era and Christianity, these old traditions were forgotten. They were revived in the 19th century Europe, when it was decided to celebrate this day as International Workers Day. It was the time when the factory workers in Europe and USA were fighting for their rights.
And here is the shocker: The actual trigger to this newly revived holiday was the event in Chicago, USA, when during a factory strike, a number of American workers were killed as a result of a brutal crackdown, which happened – you’ve guessed it – on May 1. The workers in other countries decided to show solidarity with their “American brothers” by marking this day as International Workers’ Day. Isn’t it ironic that Labor Day in the USA, as opposed to the rest of the world, is now celebrated in September.
May Day is a national holiday not only in Russia today, but also in most of the world. In Russia everyone actually has April 30 and May 1 as official days off. May 8-9, Victory Day – another 2 days off. Some companies/offices have practically 2 weeks off, which they call May Holidays. Not bad! That’s in addition to country wide 10 days off for New Year/Russian Christmas: 12/31-1/10 and required by law 1 month vacation for all! Most Europeans have 24-36 day vacations AND many countries have additional 2 weeks period in August, when the whole country practically shuts down for a summer break. Compare that to American 2 weeks. Hmmm… Food for thought, especially on May Day.
Thank you, Jason, for this very special opportunity to connect with your readers. I thoroughly enjoyed answering your in-depth, off-the-beaten-path questions. And I hope the readers enjoyed this interview, too!
Thank you, Lada, for such a fascinating interview! I’m sure my readers are going to want to become Jade Snow fans and follow her adventures. You have been very generous sharing with us memories from your life. Thank you for this. You illustrate beautifully how an author’s experiences weave into his or her writing to create compelling and world-broadening fiction. I would like to remind readers to visit Lada’s website for more information on all of Lada Ray’s writing. And, before you leave this page, please leave a short comment so that you, too, may be eligible for the drawing! Thank you for stopping by Different Outcomes!
GOLD TRAIN GIVEAWAY: Please leave a comment to be entered to win a GOLD TRAIN ebook on 5/6, including the *required info! What is the required info? See here!
GOLD TRAIN INFO and LINKS
Genre: geopolitical/spy thriller, historic mystery, action, adventure, humor, suspense with an element of otherworldly romance.
Pages: 230. Print size: 9×6 in.
Release: eBook – 12/18/11. Paperback – 4/25/12
For a limited time on Amazon:
Buy GOLD TRAIN paperback for $9.99 (reg. $14.95)
Buy Gold Train ebook for only $0.99 (reg. $3.99)
Own all three Jade Snow ebooks for only $2.97. Gold Train, Stepford USA, Green Desert – $0.99 each!
More information about these Promotions, as well as Giveaways and the Gold Train Blog Tour schedule: https://ladaray.wordpress.com/blog-tours/
WHERE TO BUY GOLD TRAIN:
Barnes & Noble (eBook)
Blog Tour and Giveaway info: https://ladaray.wordpress.com/blog-tours
Visit Lada Ray Author Website – all about GOLD TRAIN and other books:http://www.LadaRay.com
GOLD TRAIN Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkTek8E23rg
YouTube: Lada Ray Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/LadaRay/videos
I am inviting you to check out the entertaining posts on Lada Ray Blog with lots of beautiful and rare photos. It’s Russia, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Russian trains and gorgeous, one-of-a-kind Russian Metro, like you’ve never seen them before! It’s also about Jade Snow and Gold Train: