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Wave of Terror Paperback – January 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Odrach's delightfully sardonic novel about the Stalinist occupation of Belarus that began in 1939 is rich with history, horror and comedy. The story unfolds in Pinsk and the villages of the Pinsk Marshes, where peasants who endured czars and Polish conquerors squirm helplessly under the boot of a regime more authoritarian than any they've known. Families are sent to labor camps on trumped-up charges; hapless innocents are tortured and executed without explanation. Ivan Kulik, the headmaster of an elementary school in the Ukrainian-speaking village of Hlaby, is frustrated with farcical Soviet demands, especially that classes be taught in Belorussian (none of the students or teachers speak the language). University-educated Ivan is fluent in Russian but prefers his native tongue, which doesn't help when he becomes infatuated with the beautiful Marusia Bohdanovich, who incompetently affects Russian airs. Potentially deadly trouble looms for Ivan and Marusia after she catches the eye of a sociopathic secret police lieutenant named Sobakin. There's a surplus of tragedy, but Odrach finds amid the havoc an affecting thread of humanity. The novel has been skillfully translated into English by Odrach's daughter. (Jan.)
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"[This] delightfully sardonic novel about the Stalinist occupation of Belarus... is rich with history, horror and comedy." — Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (January 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0897335627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0897335621
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,205,090 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"Theodore Odrach is that rare thing, a political novelist who is also an artist of the first rank." - Sam Munson, Times Literary Supplement

Theodore (Fedir) Odrach (1912-1964) was born in Czarist Russia (now Belarus). At the age of 9, sent to a reform school in Vilnius, he went on to study at the Stefan Batory University (now Vilnius University). With the outbreak of WWII, securing a teaching position near Pinsk, Belarus, he was deemed an "enemy of the people" by the Soviets and forced into hiding. Ultimately finding his way to freedom via the Carpathian Mountains, he lived in England for several years, then in 1953 immigrated to Canada. He authored several novels and short stories, all in the Ukrainian language, which are now being translated into English by his daughter, Erma Odrach. WAVE OF TERROR is his first novel to appear in English.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Caleb Williams on September 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
A few months ago I wrote a review on a biography about Joseph Stalin in which I expressed a bit of sympathy towards the man. I knew he was a murderous tyrant and the despotism of the Soviet Union destroyed lives, but I still felt Stalin deserved some sympathy because of his crippling insecurities. After reading this novel I take it all back as it brings down the effects of the Communist regime to a personal level and it really wasn't pretty. I loved the book and it's shocking that only in the last few years we are given the opportunity to read this book thanks to the fantastic efforts of Theodore Odrach's daughter, Erma with the translations of his work. Theodore Odrach's novel is one that clearly draws a lot of inspiration from his own personal experiences growing up near Pinsk, Belarus then being sent to a reform school in Lithuania at the age of 9 and becoming a headmaster of a grammar school. Denounced by the Soviets, Odrach was forced to go on the run for years until finally settling in Toronto, Canada.

Set in 1939 during the Red Army invasion of Belarus, it tells the story of Ivan Kulik the headmaster of School Number Seven in Hlaby, a small rural village in the Pinsk marshes. Through Kulik's eyes we see exactly how the soviet regime could cast its gloomy shadow over such a small village as the villagers are terrorised and crippled with fear at the very presence of the NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs) who may show up at any time and take away those they label as subversives to the Zovty Prison to be interrogated which in that time meant a severe beating and even execution.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By F. Orion Pozo on December 17, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wave of Terror is a novel about the effects of the Soviet invasion of Belarus in 1939 on a small Ukrainian village in the Pinsk marshes as seen through the eyes of a young school teacher named Ivan Kulik. Liberated from their uncaring Polish landlords, the village is first happy, but later finds they are faced with an even worse threat from Stalinist oppression.

Originally written in Ukrainian and published as Voshchad' (Incipient dawn) in Toronto in 1972, this edition was translated into English by Erma Odrach, the author's daughter. The story is based on Odrach's personal experiences and was written to expose the horrors of Stalinist Russia, but now reads as historical fiction.

The novel is best at portraying the people and their behavior as they struggle to adapt and survive under changing and unjust conditions. Particularly well done is Ivan's infatuation with the lovely Marusia, and her uncaring response as she tries hard to adjust to the new Russian social environment that Ivan disdains.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on December 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
"...then bands of agitators follow... calling themselves long-awaited liberators. Like swarms of locusts, they seep through the smallest cracks and infest villages and settlements."

With this description young Ivan Kulik, newly appointed village school headmaster, introduces the events of 1939 in Hlaby, his village in the Pinsk Marshes - a region straddling the border between Ukraine in the south and Belorussia in the north. What follows is an extraordinary story, a social portrait of a community struggling to survive in the face of constantly mounting and increasingly violent Soviet interference in the lives of the villagers. By focusing on one village and a limited group of primary characters, Theodore Odrach takes the historical facts onto a very personal and intricate level, building empathy and understanding in the reader who is captivated early on and will remain engaged until the end of the novel and beyond.

Odrach's characters are lively and personable, realistically captured in their daily lives and their new, at times conflicting, emotions. Many are torn between willingness to collaborate with the occupiers, anticipating personal advantage within a Soviet system, or maintaining a more or less neutral attitude, risking being labelled nationalist or even traitor, thereby endangering their livelihood and even survival. As the harassment and brutal attacks multiply, and random arrests, disappearances and arbitrary killings are witnessed more frequently, ignoring reality is almost impossible. Propaganda and reality could not be further apart.
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Format: Paperback
This memorable depiction of the establishment of Soviet Socialist Republics by Stalinist revolutionaries in 1939, with their bloodshed and violence, is filled with trenchant observations of real people behaving realistically during times of real crisis. In clear, unadorned prose, author Theodore Odrach depicts the lives of rural peasants with sensitivity and an awareness both of their independence and of their shared values, contrasting them with the mindless, bureaucratic officials who enjoy wielding power over human beings which have become mere ciphers to them. Dark humor and irony, which may be the only things that make survival possible, distinguish this novel from other novels of this period, and no reader will doubt that this book is written by a someone who has seen the atrocities unfold, experienced the injustices, empathized with his fellow citizens, and felt compelled to tell the world about the abuses.

Odrach sets his story in Hlaby, in the Pinsk Marshes, an enormous marshland which extends into Poland, Belarus, and the Ukraine. Its people are subsistence farmers who have grown up speaking, first, Polish, and later Ukrainian. When the Stalinists arrive in 1939, however, they announce that henceforth this village will be part of the Belarus Soviet Socialist Republic. All their schools will be taught in Belarussian, and all their business dealings will be in Belarussian, despite the fact that no one in the area speaks that language, knows it, or can teach it. The penalties for non-compliance are extreme, an absurdity which is continued forward throughout the novel. The largest farm in the area is collectivized, its owner beaten to death. The innocent people employed on that farm are under suspicion of subversion. All churches and temples are outlawed.
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