I really, really wanted to review Gorgito’s Ice Rink on this tour but unfortunately it didn’t fit with my schedule – nevertheless, I wanted to promote the book so today I have a guest post from author Elizabeth Ducie about the tourist side of her adventures in Russia & other Soviet Union countries. I also really, really love this cover!
This guest post is part of a blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
Gorgito’s Ice Rink was runner up in Writing Magazine’s 2015 Self-Published Book of the Year Awards.
Two small boys grieving for lost sisters — torn between family and other loves. Can keeping a new promise make up for breaking an old one?
When Gorgito Tabatadze sees his sister run off with a soldier, he is bereft. When she disappears into Stalin’s Gulag system, he is devastated. He promises their mother on her death-bed he will find the missing girl and bring her home; but it is to prove an impossible quest.
Forty years later, Gorgito, now a successful businessman in post-Soviet Russia, watches another young boy lose his sister to a love stronger than family. When a talented Russian skater gets the chance to train in America, Gorgito promises her grief-stricken brother he will build an ice-rink in Nikolevsky, their home town, to bring her home again.
With the help of a British engineer, who has fled to Russia to escape her own heartache, and hindered by the local Mayor who has his own reasons for wanting the project to fail, can Gorgito overcome bureaucracy, corruption, economic melt-down and the harsh Russian climate in his quest to build the ice-rink and bring a lost sister home? And will he finally forgive himself for breaking the promise to his mother?
A story of love, loss and broken promises. Gorgito’s story, told through the eyes of the people whose lives he touched.
My Russian Cultural Adventures by Elizabeth Ducie
In the fifteen years or so I spent working in Russia and the former Soviet Union countries (Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan), the cultural side of my visits were very important, not only to me, but also to my hosts. To them, it didn’t matter that they were paying me to be there; or that there might be so many problems relating to their factories, we spent much of each day in intense discussion, interspersed with the occasional shouting match. To them, I was also a visitor and therefore due the hospitality they accorded to all visitors.
I was taken to visit churches in every town and city. Each one was beautifully decorated, at least on the outside. Many of the interiors were a tad disappointing; in fact, the most iconic and highly decorated Russian church of all, St Basil’s Cathedral on the corner of Red Square, is almost completely devoid of decoration.
I was also taken to art galleries and museums; and although I am not particularly interested in, or knowledgeable on, paintings, I loved the exhibitions of jewellery and Faberge eggs in Moscow and St Petersburg. In the latter city, The Hermitage, formerly The Winter Palace, and Peterhof, formerly The Summer Palace, were particularly spectacular; although given the level of conspicuous wealth, it’s not difficult to see how the Russian Revolution came about.
The other visit often planned for me, and always my favourite, was to the local theatre to see whatever ballet or opera happned to be on. And if I was staying for a while and no visits were on offer, I would take myself down to the box office and buy tickets for myself.
Watching ballet and opera is much less of an elite activity over there than it can be in some parts of Western Europe, especially in capital cities. I once bought a ticket in the Upper Circle of Kiev Opera House for less than fifty pence; in fact the programme and the glass of champanski in the interval each cost more than my entry fee.
Over the years, I visited some of the iconic theatres, such as the Bolshoi in Moscow; and the Mariinsky in St Petersburg. I saw The Nutcracker in the Kremlin; although I had my purse stolen that night, so it’s not one of my favourite memories. But even in smaller, less well-known venues, the quality of the performance was always superb. And often there would be a repertory programme running. On one memorable trip, I saw four difference performances within the space of a week.
Highlights for me include: the production of La Bohème in Kiev, where the closing scene was so effective, there was complete silence for several seconds as the curtain fell, before thunderous applause and a standing ovation; and when the lights went up, many of the men in the audience were in tears. The first time I heard Massenet’s Thaïs, in Chelyabinsk, where scantily dressed dancers performed a pas de deux of exquisite skill. And a performance of Don Quixote one winter’s night in St Petersburg, where we left the theatre to find the snow gently falling, and my host offered me his arm as we crossed the slippery pavement to the car. Lights shone through the black skeleton branches of leafless trees, and across the square a busker was playing a mournful melody on a trumpet. Magical moments, never to be forgotten.
When Elizabeth Ducie had been working in the international pharmaceutical industry for nearly thirty years, she decided she’d like to take a break from technical writing—text books, articles and training modules—and write for fun instead. She started by writing travel pieces, but soon discovered she was happier, and more successful, writing fiction. In 2012, she gave up the day job, and started writing full-time. She has published four novels, three collections of short stories and a series of manuals on business skills for writers.