Parallel realities: Nabokov and what the Russian aristocracy was doing during those Civil War pogroms
The Nabokov family called this place home during the Russian Civil War before fleeing to Constantinople and then to London.
Evgenia got me into reading Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir — Speak, Memory. And the day after I wrote about my grandmother Rosa and her lost history of pogroms that took place during the Russian Civil War, I got to the part where Nabokov describes his own experience during the same period of time.
Unlike my own family — which was stuck in its isolated shtetl, just sitting and waiting to be pogromed — the Nabokov clan took off for Crimea and spent most of the Civil War living pleasantly in a seaside villa at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. They house was loaned to them by one of the richest women in Russia, Countess Sofia Panina. That’s how it was for the Nabokovs — an old and respected branch of the Russian nobility. They had connections to pad their way in those early years of exile, at least for a time, before they had to make their own way.
His experience — and the tortuously stylized literary language he uses to describe it — is a nice contrast to the grim, matter-of-fact testimonies of rape and murder given by survivors of pogroms that were taking place in shtetls across Ukraine under White Russian control.
Parallel worlds, yet very much linked.
Notice the gaiety and the fun they were having when the Whites — under General Anton Denikin — began to take control of Crimea after the Germans left. They thought that their flight from St. Petersburg and sojourn in Crimea was just a brief romantic interlude to be enjoyed before the Reds would be driven out.
It didn’t work out that way. Most of these people would never see Russia again.