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This is a moving first hand account of Mittel Europa's suicide in the mid 20th century and the impact of the proceedings on a woman born to privilege and married into yet more privilege. What the book lacks by way of analytical insight and literary quality is rather more than made up for by the honesty and the immediacy of the account. The humanity of the account shines through the occasional purple prose and the numerous spelling errors - on all of which headings the author should have been well served by an astute editor.
In the first instance, the book is a warning about the dangers of "grand ideas" in human affairs. Here the dangers witnessed at first hand by a woman of grace and nobility first in her native Russia, at the hands of the Bolsheviks, and then in her adopted Mittel Europa at the hands of the National Socialists. When institutions and customs of long standing are peremptorily destroyed and replaced by new fangled constructs, individual liberty inevitably destructs and the consequence is suffered by serf and prince alike. Not a new thought this. Any reader of Edmund Burke's speech on the French revolution is undoubtedly familiar with the main line of argument. And yet it is one thing to read the fine logic and the even finer rhetoric of Burke's oratory and quite another to see the human dimension of the argument. On this view, the non-analytical version presented in Tatiana is more moving, horrifying and edifying than Burke's oratorical flourishes in the English Parliament.
In the final analysis Tatiana's is a story of hope. For it is a testament to the enduring existence of the European civilization and experience undamaged by the "grand ideas" of the pernicious 20th century.Read more ›
Found a very old copy of the Berlin Diaries, by Tatiana Metternich's sister Marie "Missie" Vassiltchikov, in a second hand book sale, and was so engrossed by it finished reading the entire book in one night.
Its descriptions of the lives of the exiled White Russian Vassiltchikov family, and of their time in Germany during the years both leading up to and during the 1939-45 war, convinced me to order this book from Amazon.de, with the idea of seeing a different side of the same experience, which is indeed exactly what a part of it is.
'Five Passports in a Shifting Europe' is a fascinating read that not only covers additional, and personal, history and timespan but also contains many different aspects and viewpoints, as she lived in Berlin, Bohemia and along the Rhine during the war.
Princess Tatiana von Metternich-Winneburg saw the effect of Nazism on Germany both before and during the war years, and was close to some of those who had been involved in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944. At wars end to escape the Russian advance, and together with her husband, she had to make a dangerous 600 kilometre journey in a long, flat farm cart filled with hay for the horses that was escorted by seven French former PoWs, also on their way home.
Written with style and humour, it eloquently and movingly describes a difficult point in time in European history, and is also witness to a woman of considerable determination and daring.
Until a few years before her death in August 2006 Tatiana was active working for the Red Cross, and undertook much charity work for the poor, especially in eastern Europe, and her efforts with a food aid programme in Russia were recognised by Vladimir Putin.Read more ›
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This book is for my research on the author's family history. Such options as "like it", "love it", "hate it" do not apply. From a personal point of view, I actually prefer her sister's book, Berlin Diaries 1940 - 1945, by Marie Vassiltchikov. But Frau Metternich's book is very useful and full of valuable information and comments.
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