Bibliotheca: "The Forsaken: Of the Depression-Era Americans Who Ventured to Russia" by Tim Tzouliadis


Tim Tzouliadis was born in Athens and raised in England. A graduate of Oxford, he also pursued a career as a documentary filmmaker and television journalist whose work has appeared on NBC and National Geographic television programming.
The book’s background is set in the year 1934, when the United States, and indeed the world, was struggling through what has become known as the Great Depression; where people became desperate and delusioned with the economic situation and looked more for a scapegoat rather than a solution to the problem.
Newspaper ads began to appear offering passage to the Soviet Union for employment – expenses paid. Even the immigrant workers’ housing was advertised as being paid for by the Soviet government. Surprisingly, mostly out of desperation, Americans answered the ad and thousands accepted Joseph Stalin’s offer and promise of a better life. Indeed, the newly arrived immigrants were given housing and employment and welcomed with hospitality. In Tzouliadis’ book, he describes the various backgrounds of the newcomers, which, for the most part, was made up of working-class Americans that included American citizens who became infatuated with the idea of socialism.

Things soon changed, the mood and reality of the results of their decision soon became a tragedy and a part of the period of brutality under the Stalin oppressive regime. Tzouliadis focuses upon the little known facts about these people who suffered because of their bad decision, and their misinformed ideology where they thought that socialism was better than the American republic style of democracy. He includes in detail the events as well as the involvement of leadership figures within the diplomatic corps of the United States in Moscow, who, for the most part were ignorant of the situation of the immigrated American citizens. US journalists, for the most part, ignored the plight of the Americans and intellectuals of the day refused to mention the situation to either the Soviet authorities or the American media.
The American expatriates soon found themselves in Soviet prisons and work camps, and some survived to make it back to America after the death of Stalin. Two figures in this tragic tale are focused upon: Victor Hermann, who wrote a memoir of his experience and Thomas Sgovio. Tzouliadis’ research and thorough sources is impressive. Here is an excerpt from the book:

And who could blame those Americans, motivated as much by economic necessity as their own idealism, who gratefully accepted Joseph Stalin’s open invitation to work in the Soviet Union? Skilled workers could even have their passage paid to the land where unemployment had been officially declared extincr. They saw themselves as the pioneers of a new frontier, moving slowly from west to east, lured not just by the idea of security in hard times but also the simple temptations of adequacy: of three square meals a day, a decent job, a roof over their heads, a doctor for their children and the knowledge that it could not all be taken away at the click of someone’s fingers, or the chatter of the stock-ticker.
They left it to the social philosophers to speculate on the value of secure and decently paid employment to an individual’s notion of identity or self-worth; let alone ‘the pursuit of happiness,’ a phrase which provoked a certain mocking tone when spoken from beneath the corrugated roof of a brick shack. And if their President of the United States could talk to the nation of ‘the flight of the money-changers from the temple’ without being called a ‘Red’, then presumably these American exiles could hold a similar view as they were drawn east to Russia like a beacon, a flickering flame in the white night of the Depression
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Today, some economists say that the Great Depression will soon be repeated. Not necessarily in the same way, but within our society there are those who blame America, or rather its system of government, as well as the socialist propaganda rhetoric that free trade, capitalism and the evil corporations and wealthy has caused the economic situation we are in today. The circumstances leading to this is complicated and there are several reasons. Politicians use this situation to reinforce their misinformation as to how to fix the economy, and since the American Democratic Party has used the false promises of socialism since the days of FDR, with the help of organizations who back the old Soviet way of life as being what America needs. Effectively they are insisting that America must change to some form of Americanized socialism, of which some call a Nanny State, in order for America to improve the situation. Like the emigrants to Russia that Tzouliadis writes about, they will be extremely disappointed – and instead of just making their own live a tragedy, bring our nation down with them. The situation crosses political lines made in the form of the two main and recognized political parties of the DNC and the GOP.
America has experienced other economic depressed eras, the major ones occurring during the President Andrew Jackson era (1800s) and the one that occurred, and indeed, aided the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, (1930s) once affectionately known as FDR. And while history indeed repeats itself, the issues and problems often occur on a different platform, according to the conditions at the time.
The finger pointing goes back and forth across the political aisle in Washington – but the main culprit is the American people, who desparately seek the scapegoat or reason for all the troubles – ignoring truth and relying upon an ideology that clearly uses the situation for their own agenda.
After the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, many Americans wondered why Islamic factions could hate us so much. Much of it has to do with mishandled foreign policy, as some of them profess; however, like all movements that surface and are retained, the background is more intricate and the scope larger than this simple reasoning. The fact that there is an element of organizations under the banner of hate and false religious doctrine that is a threat globally and coupled with economic problems, people are succumbing to the repeated lies of the political left. Indeed, the party of conservatism has fallen away from their political ideology and have chosen comprimisation instead of the continued fight over individual rights and liberties versus the collective, and because the average advocate or follower of these movements refuse to admit they have wrongfully followed leadership, failing voter responsibilities, they listen to those who promise utopia if the American governmental system is changed to a version of socialism that fits their needs – instead of following the Founders established principles of how a government should operate.
Tim Tzouliadis is a report about a little known tragedy in history, and a warning to those that believe the answer to problems of America is capitulation and the slow destruction of the American Republic is to be fixed by the false changes proposed by dysfunctional and self-serving American political leadership. Blaming America and its foreign policy for the rise of Islamic fascism is a cop out. The real blame points to the American politicians and those who vote for them or the same type of individuals election after election, who prey upon Americans who yearn for change and who will find out that it won’t be the change they had in mind. And since the problem has been identified, American voters should be seeking for the type of leadership who earnestly seek America’s way back to its roots and what exactly made America a role model among nations of democracy and those who yearn for it. Indeed, change must come in the form of reformation, but not the kind of change that the present candidates available for Election 2008 have to offer. This will never occur if the American voter doesn’t accept the responsibility required to address issues at hand and issues surfacing in the future. We must begin the change within society, insist that candidates in the primaries not be chosen by the media’s bias opinions, clean Congress out of the ‘politics as usual’ crowd and retain those who earnestly put America and its people above all foreign interests, self interests and special interest groups. We do not have a health care system reformed because of the power of insurance corportations and their lobbyists (Canadian family of four only pay about $185 per month for 100% coverage with no insurance company contract stating that some health care needed is not covered). The Canadian system needs to be scrutinized to tailor it to our needs in regards to health care, and the Hillary-Kerry-Obama health care system is not the answer.
We do not have a responsible media system because we fail to educate and retain journalists who abide by the code of ethics established and use the power of the media for establishment of their own twisted ideology. And, in regards to the status of educational standards, we are now 25th among other nations because of government political intervention. Our family unit is weak, the beginning of the end of any nation or civilization. Our national unity is dysfunctional and too many Americans find it easier to side with dissidents against America, rather than stand together as a diverse nation under one cause. Patriotism is looked upon as distasteful for various reasons, not realizing that patriotism is not allegiance to the government, but to the nation of people who identify themselves under the symbolism of the American flag.
The system may be broken, but changing the governmental system is not the answer. The answer lies in the fact that it is the leadership within that system that has fallen by the way. Politicians and the media need to be put back into their place, and that place is to serve the people, not their self-interests and delusion of a utopia that can never exist.
There is a lot of work to do – so you better get started. Read this book and see the outcome of mistakes made during an era when socialism and communism infiltrated and changed the way Americans view America and its form of government founded by real statesmen who suffered hardship in order to make it a reality. Let’s not forget our roots, for the foundation was set on strong principles and a set of rules that promises liberty and individualism for all those who endeavor to protect and retain it.

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