Grandparents' Russian memoirs shed light on a tumultuous time
By Janene Holzberg
Howard County Times|
May 11, 2017 | 9:32 AM
Though 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Marinich has been reliving the tumultuous events that led up to the uprising, and the civil war that followed, over and over for the past decade.
In 1917, the Ellicott City resident's maternal grandfather, who was head of the Security Bureau in the capital city of St. Petersburg, fled from the Bolsheviks with his wife after a pair of revolutions eight months apart brought about the overthrow of the imperial government.
To open a window into that turbulent time, Marinich – who retired in 2012 as a Howard Community College history professor after 43 years – has devoted more than 10 years to translating the detailed memoirs of his grandparents, Konstantin Ivanovich Globachev and Sofia Nikolaevna Globacheva.
The result is a 364-page hardcover volume titled, "The Truth of the Russian Revolution: The Memoirs of the Tsar's Chief of Security and His Wife." Published May 1 by State University of New York Press, the book provides dual perspectives on a turbulent time in world history.
"This stuff makes 'Dr. Zhivago' look like a Sunday picnic," Marinich said, referring to the iconic 1957 novel by Boris Pasternak that tells the fictional story of doomed love during the Russian Revolution.
Set against the backdrop of what was Marinich said was essentially "a civil war between the Reds and the Whites," the book shares the eyewitness accounts of a major general of the Okhrana, which was the Russian name for the Tsarist political police, and his wife.
Portraits of the couple appear side-by-side on the book's cover; he is a strikingly handsome man in uniform with a handlebar mustache and she is a beauty of aristocratic bearing. Family photographs also fill the book's pages.
The interweaving of the two individual sets of memoirs sets the book apart, said Marinich, who was one of the original staff at HCC when it opened its doors in 1970.
"My grandfather's memoirs are very political, of course," he said.
"He was in the thick of things in the two years leading up to the revolution, and he provided surveillance and security to Rasputin," who was a mystical adviser with considerable influence in the court of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, he said.
"But my grandmother's writings are that of an anxious wife and mother who feared for her husband's safety, making their story no longer just the stuff of a political textbook," he said.
And was she ever a fiercely devoted spouse.
When Globachev was wrongfully incarcerated at one point, his wife courageously ran for miles down the streets of the city with bullets whizzing past her to get to him. After badgering revolutionary authorities, she managed to convince the Minister of Justice to release her husband because he hadn't been charged with anything.
With the Reds winning the revolution, more than 200,000 White Russians who opposed Communist rule had to evacuate their homeland in 1917, with many of them ending up in Istanbul, which was then known as Constantinople, Marinich said.
Globachev worked for the Russian embassy in that city for a few years.
"But [the embassy] was supporting something that no longer existed and eventually closed," Marinich said.
Since his grandfather had worked for the government, the couple already had visas to Serbia, Bulgaria, France and the United States. They quickly settled on what their next step would be in their quest for freedom.
"My grandparents decided in 1923 that their best chance for having a life was coming to America" with their family of four, said Marinich, a first-generation American.
At first, the couple lived in a boarding house in New York, "thinking that the new government would be overthrown and they would return to their old life in Russia," he said.
But in 1930, Globachev agreed to lead an intelligence agency for anti-Communist forces working underground in Paris to overthrow Moscow. After four years in France, the couple returned to Manhattan when the organization ran out of money, and eventually became American citizens.
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Marinich's grandfather took a job as a commercial artist, a vocation he pursued until his death in 1941 at age 71. His grandmother died in 1950 at age 75.
During the family's years in New York, Marinich's parents worked while his grandmother kept house and did the cooking for the extended family, which also included his older brother, Oleg.
"My grandmother was a saint and a loving woman who greeted my brother and me with milk and cookies every day after school," he recalled. "And she spent an hour a day teaching us to read and speak Russian."
Marinich's book was accepted quickly for publication by SUNY Press, which was one of five university presses he had contacted. He said he "probably would've given up [on the project] if it weren't for his wife and kids."
He and his wife, Barbara Livieratos, a retired HCC administrator, "proofread, made changes, proofread and made more changes," he said. Marinich wrote a preface, acknowledgments and a chapter on his grandparents' early life together.
Rafael Chaiken, assistant acquisitions editor at SUNY Press, said Marinich was meticulous in his translating, editing and research.
"We're excited to publish this new perspective on the Russian Revolution, which will appeal to scholars as well as to a general audience," he said. "Publishing side-by-side memoirs is a rare opportunity."
While the hardcover version of the book is priced at $95, the paperback version will be released in January for under $30, Chaiken said. The book can be purchased online at SUNY Press and from Amazon.
Kathleen Hetherington, HCC president, said she remembers Marinich talking about translating the memoirs when he was still a professor at the college.
"Vlad's connection to Russia was always so strong. If the book is anything like his teaching, it will make history come alive," she said, calling him "a top-notch professor."
"There are chunks of me in the book, but this is about my grandparents – they were the great ones," Marinich said. "There's a very human story in there. By translating their memoirs, I was able to bring that story to light."