The Forsaken, By Tim Tzouliadis

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Impelled by reasons ranging from unemployment to the blinkered cajoling of GBS, thousands of Americans left for Stalin's Russia.

Tzouliadis tells their unknown story through baseball player Thomas Sgovio, who was attracted in 1935 by Russia's brief-lived baseball mania. After realising his mistake, the 21-year-old applied to the American Embassy for help in repatriation and was snatched by the NKVD.

Betrayed by a fellow American, a journalist called Lucy Flaxman, Sgovio was transported to a labour camp at Kolyma in the frozen northeast of Siberia. He was released 10 years later in 1947, only to be re-arrested.

Eventually permitted to leave Russia in 1960, Sgovio passed his final days in Phoenix, Arizonia. Plaiting the opposing poles of human nature – optimistic naivety and implacable brutality – Tzouliadis's book is both terrifying and uplifting. CH