Orphaned when his parents are taken away as “enemies of the people”, young Stepanych finds himself a ward of the Soviet state. He is miraculously rescued from a government orphanage in Nazi-besieged Leningrad, only to be placed in another children’s institution in Siberia—a place of Dickensian attributes, where the leaders earn nicknames like Toad and Screwface, and where the young inmates are able to live their own lives only in secret, by night. Desperately longing for his native city and his Polish mother, Bronya, Stepanych flees the orphanage soon after the end of World War II.
The eight year old boy secretly jumps on board the trains heading west, towards Leningrad. It is not only his desperate courage and his youthful agility that ensure his survival, it is also his artistic talent. With his agile fingers the boy is able to bend wire in the shape of profiles of Lenin and Stalin, as if in silhouette. He uses them to cheer up the invalid war veterans on the train stations returning from the front, who then give him a piece of bread, a bowl of soup and who, in a spirit of comradeship, warn him of the railway police and the secret service henchmen wanting to send the runaway back to the orphanage. Eduard spends more than six years on the run, experiencing close encounters with post-war Russia where life and fate have become synonyms.
About Eduard Kochergin
Eduard Stepanovich (Stepanych) Kochergin was born in 1937, at the height of Stalinist repressions in the Soviet Union, and spent most of his childhood in a series of state orphanages for children of political prisoners. Years later he went on to become an internationally acclaimed stage and set designer, and is currently the head of stage design at the Bolshoi Tovstonogov Drama Theater in St. Petersburg. National Artist of Russia, Laureate of State and International Awards, and member of the Russian Academy of Arts, Eduard Kochergin has designed more than 100 plays in Russia and abroad.
In 2010 Kochergin was awarded a prestigious literary prize, The National Bestseller, for his memoir Christened with Crosses,based on his 6-year-long odyssey home from an orphanage in Siberia to his native Leningrad/St. Petersburg.