J.'s Reviews > Wave of Terror

Wave of Terror by Theodore Odrach
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's review
Apr 06, 2010

it was amazing

Historical fiction has been enjoying growing readership in recent years, and I count myself among that readership. I became aware of Wave of Terror on Goodreads and quickly added it to my reading list.

Partially autobiographical, Wave of Terror tells the story of Ivan Kulik, headmaster of a grammar school near Pinsk, in Ukraine, during the years Stalin was coming to power in Russia. Like the author, Theodore Odrach, Kulik, too, was an unruly child who, after committing a petty offense, spent time in a reform school in Vilnius before enrolling in University.

Wave of Terror, lovingly translated by Odrach’s daughter, Erma, ranks with Orwell’s Animal Farm as a chronicle of how despots creep into a small village to hail the new regime, to assure the people of a prosperous future for one and all. Of course those who dissent disappear mysteriously, never to be heard from again. Soon, distrust of neighbors grows: is he or she an informer? The sound of a motorcar coming to a stop outside your home, two doors slamming—have they come at last for me?

In America, we cannot know such terror; yet our previous administration showed disdain and no fear of its people. A government should fear its people. In Wave of Terror, Odrach makes the fear of the new regime and the secret police palpably real as the backdrop for this fictional cat and mouse game between Kulik and the authorities, who will stop at nothing, including manufacturing truths, to remove him as a threat to Stalin’s plan for the greatest socialist regime in history, masked as a democracy.

Kulik is very human: he wants to trust (as is man’s nature), fears to trust, even those closest to him, even for love. Yes, Kulik is a dissident. He wishes to teach the truth and to keep alive the rich heritage of Ukraine; while the new regime tells him he must teach only what they wish the populace to know.

In the end, the black motorcar comes for Kulik, he is kept in a prison for a day and a night, interrogated and released. But he knows this is the beginning of the end for him, that next time he will not be so lucky, and so he flees Ukraine.

However, where Kulik’s story ends, Odrach’s continues. Odrach escaped to Slovakia through the Carpathian Mountains, changing his name from Sholomitsky, eventually making his way to Germany and England where he wed, and ending up in Toronto where he wrote novels, short stories, memoirs and articles for local Ukrainian newspapers until his death from a stroke in 1964.

His books, all written from his Toronto home, were banned in the Soviet Union. Wave of Terror is his first novel to appear in English.

Highly recommended.
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