Today is David’s brother’s birthday (1919). His mom’s birthday was yesterday (1900, or 1899 under the Julian calendar) and his dad’s birthday the ninth of November (1888). His dad and mom met in Irkutsk Siberia when dad served with the US Expeditionary Force guarding the trans-Siberian railway in Europe and mom was a White Russian fleeing the Communists. “Dr Zhivago, the story of my life”, she said.
David survives alone. Every year, he gets in a strange and emotional mood around this time.
David served during the Korean War. “The forgotten war”, he says.
When David’s mom arrived in the American South of the 1920s, she was completely shocked. An educated woman who had attended the gymnasium in Estonia, and a socialist living in Wilmington NC, she worked in Democrat primaries and national elections making phone calls on behalf of her candidates.
She never lost her Russian accent. Based on David’s recollection, when making political calls, she said, “I vant you to vote for my candidate” or something to that effect. He once chided her for her accent She responded “I speak four languages, how many do you speak?”
Making political phone calls with a Russian accent in NC in the 1960s wasn’t the coolest thing you could do.
David only spoke three languages. He travelled overseas and lived with his grandparents in 1935-37, and spoke the Russian of a child. He also learned German when he worked with NATO. Of course he spoke English with a NC accent.
This past week, I finished The Fall of the Ottoman Empire: the Great War in the MIddle East, by Eugene Rogan. I knew something of this history because I have read much about WWI, the history of the Middle East and the British Empire. However, I did not know or remember that the two sides engaged in trench warfare and that the fighting was as bad in the Middle East as in France.
Most amazing is the description of the various campaigns and battles in the Middle East, names like Allepo you might recognize if you follow current events. Today being the anniversary of the end of the Great War or Armistice Day as we knew it as children, it seemed appropriate to me that the book ends at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month almost exactly 100 years ago.
I know as Americans we wish we never again had to venture overseas to fight in another foreign war, but we are global citizens who cannot afford isolationism.