They Took My Father: A Story of Idealism and Betrayal

Mayme Sevander, Author, Laurie Hertzel, With
Mayme Sevander, Author, Laurie Hertzel, With University of Minnesota Press $12.95 (190p) ISBN 978-0-938586-64-7
Reviewed on: 09/28/1992
Release date: 10/01/1992
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In this brief but compelling memoir, Sevander tells the little-known story of how some 6000 Americans of Finnish descent immigrated to the Soviet Union during the Depression, only to have their hopes dashed by Stalinism. Like some immigrants, Sevander's father, Oscar Corgan, found America a place more of injustice than of opportunity, and he edited a Finnish socialist newspaper. Sevander, aided by journalist Hertzel, recreates the idealistic fervor of that time in a candid, absorbing narrative. In 1934, when the author was 11, her family immigrated to Karelia, the Soviet republic bordering Finland, even as a disillusioned group of Americans headed home. She describes the tensions between Russians and Finns, the privations of family life, and the initial spirit of cooperation. However, when the purges began, Corgan was taken away, and his daughter's search for him continues through the book. Sevander went into internal exile with her family and was rescued by a former teacher; she joined the Red Army as a scout in World War II, but was sent to a labor camp. She eventually married and became an English teacher; her last 40 years in Russia, she reflects, have been fairly happy. Photos not seen by PW (Sept.)
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