I Want to Live: The Diary of a Young Girl in Stalin’s Russia by Nina Lugovskaya (Translated by Andrew Bromfield) - review by Donald Rayfield

Donald Rayfield

A Russian Anne Frank

I Want to Live: The Diary of a Young Girl in Stalin’s Russia


Doubleday 267pp £16.99

When this diary was published in Russia two years ago, it was immediately, and inevitably, compared with the diary of Anne Frank. It is a very articulate record by an adolescent girl, living in an ever more threatening totalitarian environment, of her fears and frustrations, and it mingles the emotional pains of a girl going through puberty with the anguish of a trapped animal feeling the hunters getting nearer. For a girl of thirteen years old, in a society where there was no information but official propaganda and market rumour, Nina was remarkably well informed and perspicacious: she reports the famine and cannibalism that took the lives of millions of peasants in 1933, when not just the Moscow press but Moscow’s inhabitants were genuinely unaware of the disaster happening five hundred miles to the south. Andrew Bromfield speculates that she may have had access to underground Menshevik or Social Revolutionary literature, but this seems unlikely in the 1930s when all dissidence had been suppressed. Nina’s perspicacity is one of the most mysterious elements in her diary.

Of the millions who shared the fates of Anne Frank and Nina Lugovskaya, only a tiny fraction left behind a record of what they went through. On the other hand, the differences between Anne Frank and Nina Lugovskaya are perhaps more important than the similarities. The most interesting feature of

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