Surviving Stalin

The Illinois State University Speaker Series is hosting a discussion that fans of history might be interested in.

Author Vladimir Rott is a man who escaped an array of corrupt leaders. In his talk “Surviving Repression:  A Personal Account of Life under Stalinism and Nazi Occupation,” guests will hear his firsthand account about the trials and challenges he and his family faced as Jewish-Hungarian immigrants.

The event begins at 4 p.m. Thursday at University Galleries at ISU. The event is free and open to the public.

Rott was born in the Soviet Union in 1935. His family dealt with persecution and injustice regularly. When Rott’s father was arrested alongside millions of innocents under Stalin’s “Great Purge,” the family became citizens of the Soviet Union, hoping that the gesture would release Rott’s father.

With Rott’s mother working several jobs to protect their family, Rott learned to survive on the streets and could fix anything in front of him. These skills helped him develop the personality and mindset of a survivor.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Nazi’s invaded Belarus and made life terrible for those of Jewish decent. Like every nation the Nazi’s controlled, Jews were rounded up and exterminated. Rott’s family was spared only because of their “Hungarian” ancestry.

Rott’s family later moved to Tomsk, Siberia in 1954. Rott worked his way towards a graduate degree in electrical engineering while attending the Tomsk Polytechnic University.

Rott also participated in the university’s Big Band orchestra as a violinist. This is where he met his wife Iya. They had two children before moving to Togliatti. There they had a third child.

Eventually Rott and his family traveled to Hungary to reunite with family and to meet members of his newly extended family from Canada. In 1974, Rott decided to defect to Toronto, which is where he resides with his family to this day.

In 1984, friends of Rott were able to smuggle old documents out of Russia through Austria and Hungary. In these documents contained letters from Rott’s father while he was in prison as well as old diaries dating back to 1935.

The information in the documents gave Rott inspiration to write many books about his experiences, including "My Father’s Letters from Siberian Prison."

His success as an author is exemplified in his award from the Hungarian government and his status as an honorary member of the Hungarian Writer’s Club.

Recently, Rott was heavily involved with restoration and construction efforts towards a Jewish monument in Mysovaya Station, Siberia.

“I need to tell you about events and people, whose memory should not disappear or be forgotten in any way,” Rott said in the foreground of his 2009 work titled “In Defiance of Fate: Book 1 Joy From Sadness.”

MIKE SMITH is a News Reporter for The Vidette. He can be reached at msmit13@ilstu.edu. Follow him on Twitter @Agora_180


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