I couldn’t return this book to the library without writing this. The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death under Soviet Rule by Igort is probably the closest thing to horror I’ve ever willingly read. And I think we all should take a few weeks to read it. I say a few weeks because if you’re sensitive to the human condition, you will need to take many a break to let the information sink in. Or, you’ll likely find yourself hunched over the toilet in an emotional mess.
I won’t give away any of the story at all, but as with any review, I wish to take a moment to cover the basis of it. Igort, a renowned comics artist / illustrator, spent two years in Russia and Ukraine researching and taking down stories from people who survived Soviet rule. Honestly, it felt like I was learning so much of this history for the first time, and that bothered me to the core.
Like all education systems out there, America’s is flawed. There are holes in what we’re taught. Some teachers skip specific materials and fields of thought altogether, or worse, their hands are tied. We’re missing some big pieces of history — which to me is more dangerous than missing pieces of artistry, language, science, geography, or arithmetic. History repeats itself; especially for those who ignore it.
Some of what I read, I discovered [through Google dictionary and Wikipedia searches] was a repeat of my history lessons in highschool, only words foreign to me [often Ukrainian or Russian terms] are used to describe them. Still other things I find myself extremely confused on.
My confusion stems from a lack of education in regards to the Soviet Union. I’m uncertain whether:
- I learned this and forgot over time.
- I was taught this.
- It was glossed over in a class because so much of it is “R-rated” and not for youths.
- The teachers themselves weren’t aware of some of it due to the secretive nature of that government.
- Left out of textbooks or otherwise deemed unfit for my age bracket.
Either way, it feels like a tattered thrift shop puzzle — I’m still waiting for over half the pieces to turn up in the thrift shop, but in the meantime, I have a fractured view and understanding of the final image. This is yet another reason why history is so crucially important. If your schools aren’t teaching it appropriately, I challenge parents and teens to go the extra mile[s].
This is a graphic novel. Though the illustrations are not grossly detailed, there is most definitely an unmistakable comprehension of each image’s message. I do not recommend this book for teens unless a parent or guardian reads it first and then supervises the teens’ reading. We are a sensitive people — take care of one another in this. However, I do strongly recommend this book. Imagine how much better we’d each have done in history classes had the textbooks been comics!! This is an excellent way to learn history. As I stated earlier, I’m a little confused — however, this is due solely to my lacking knowledge on the subject prior to reading the book.
A few sensitive topics the book covers:
- Government imposed starvation
- Cannibalism — usually per the starvation mentioned above
- War — and Igort don’t mess around… every detail he gleaned is laid bare for us to read.
- Terror — let me repeat; Igort. Don’t. Mess around.
- Assasination of activist[s]
- Police state
I wish I could say to enjoy the book… The truth is, I had difficulty getting through this one without vomiting. I read it because I owe it to myself to know history. To know the truth. So I’ll leave you with that. Understand, you won’t enjoy this. But do read it and know an inkling of truth.