“For some a prologue,
For some an epilogue”.
I have managed to travel a lot in the last two or so years, especially since last November. I’ve lost count and can’t remember off the top of my head, but I estimate that I have travelled to more than a dozen countries, including France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Falkland Islands (A British overseas territory), Argentina, Denmark, China, Ukraine and Russia.
Apart from travelling to Bruge in the spring of 2017 via rail from London in the Eurostar, I haven’t been to any of those other countries physically. Due to varying standards of writings read, I have been a tourist and an observer of many countries in my ever-growing imagination.
What is more, I am a time-traveller. Of all the places I have been to, St. Petersburg in 1930s Soviet Russia probably fascinates me the most, as an English excursionist.
As the clergyman of the southernmost Anglican Cathedral in the world, the 1981 Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands is an experience I will never forget for a very mixed bag of reasons.
Vienna in 1930, was an interesting experience, but my stay was too short-lived, and I hope to visit there again very soon.
I might write about what I’ve learned in due course.
The majority of my travels have, unsurprisingly, been thanks to travel-writers, thoughtful Vicars and Bishops, Journalists and Historians. Mainly English ladies and gentlemen who wrote about their continental adventures in the late 1890s, 1920s, early 1940s, late 1940s and early 1950s.
I intend to start writing about some of these experiences when I return from my journey into the Soviet Union in the 1920s, as a Russian-born American.
I’ve so far read a couple of chapters of ‘Humanity Uprooted’ by Maurice Hindus which was first published in 1929. It is a fascinating book.
Here is the preface:
“I WAS born in a Russian village, so deaf, as the Russians would say (meaning so far removed from centres of civilization), that not until I had started for America at the age of fourteen, did I see a railroad train or an electric light. After a lengthy sojourn in this country I returned to Russia in 1923 and spent a year there, wandering about the cities and villages. Since then I have visited Russia almost annually, roaming at leisure in Siberia, the Caucasus, the Volga region, the Ukraine, the Crimea and the far North. Everywhere it was the same story – humanity in a state of feverish agitation, convulsed with thought and feeling. Life in Russia is so violent an experience, so painful a trial and to him who bursts with the new faith so glorious an ecstasy, that one cannot remain simply passive. One must react somehow to the heaving turbulence, with fervour, with fury, with hope, with despair with madness or even with death.
For good or for evil Russia has plucked up the old world by its very roots and the Party in power is glad to see these roots wilt and turn into dust. Hardly an institution – property, religion, morality, family, love – has escaped the blasts of the Revolution.
It was the learned Dr. Hu Shih in Shanghia who told me that what struck him most forcibly about the Russian Revolution was the deliberate attempt to build a civilization based on an entirely new pattern. Of course there is nothing new in that. Japan has done it wisely and well. But Japan has a model to follow. The Western world furnished her with a complete set of diagrams. Not so with Russia. The civilization she is seeking to enthrone never was on sea or land. She has had no ready models to guide her. She wants a society without religion, with sex freedom, with mental and manual workers reduced to a plane of equality, with the individual depending for his salvation not on himself but the group. A whole generation is being vigorously reared in the belief that religion is a monstrous unreality, that the accumulation of material substance is the grossest of wrongs and that the man in its pursuit, especially the business man, is the slimiest creature on earth. A whole generation of women is being reared in the idea that women must be economically independent, and must participate in the affairs of the world – in industry, in education, in government, in all other national pursuits, on a basis of equality with men. Whatever we may think of feminism something stupendous must come out of this effort to draw on the intelligence and energies of women in the task of rebuilding a civilization.
Those of us with an American or some other Western background and with a knowledge of the Russian language, who have had the opportunity to observe at close range Russian humanity in these years of tumult and tribulation, have had an extraordinary experience, fraught with great sorrow, yet not void of romance. Agony there is in Russia, more, I am sure, than in any land in the world. Rapture also, the highest man ever has tasted.
In this book I have attempted to give a picture of the results of the revolutionary effort to uproot ancient institutions and to re-fashion the ways of man.”