November meeting – a message from John Symons to our members

Dear members of Lee W.I.,

Thank you for your kind and warm welcome on Thursday evening.

I did enjoy everything, and came away feeling

that it is sad that there is not a Men’s Institute, which I would certainly join.

Thank you, too, for the flowers for Judy,

who made it possible for me to get there, in difficult circumstances,

and for the bottle of my favourite Georgian wine.

I noticed some members making a note of books and films that came up in discussion,

so I have asked Carolyn to circulate this list, and I hope it is of interest.
1. A faithful picture or Russia before 1917:
The house by the (river) Dvina, and The Dvina Remains, by Eugenie Fraser;
The Russian People, by Maurice Baring.

2. Personal accounts of the effects of Bolshevik power, after 1917:
Hope against Hope, by Nadezhda Mandelstam. (In Russian, ‘nadezhda’ means ‘hope’.)
Into the Whirlwind, by Evgenia Ginzburg.

3. Two films which convey a feeling of the beguiling side of the Soviet Union in the late 1950s/early 1960s,

when Mr Khrushchev introduced something of a thaw, after Stalin’s death in 1953:
I wander around Moscow (Ya shagayou po Moskve); and
Have a good steam (S lyogkhim parom), the wish that Russians offer each other

as they take a  steam bath, a film watched traditionally on New Year’s Eve.
Both films offer a touching picture of the relations between the men and women in those years,

which though rather idealised holds an important element of the truth.

The wonderful song at the end of the first film really IS, for me, the best to be said about the Soviet Union.

All Russians over forty five years old will sing it for, and with, you!

Finally, in case you would like to know any more

about my ‘Russia book’, A Tear in the Curtain’,

you can see me saying something about it, and my other books, at

Once again, thank you for an evening which I enjoyed so much.
Best wishes,
John Symons
P.S. Here is that song!