Author Topic: Eyewitness in Tobolsk  (Read 3996 times)

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IlyaBorisovich

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Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« on: October 22, 2004, 04:41:08 PM »
Does anyone know of/have any opinion of this book by Olga Belisle?  It turns up on ebay every once in awhile and I wondered if it was worth the fifteen bucks.

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Offline Greg_King

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2004, 10:26:21 PM »
I have one, though I confess I have never read it.  But several other people, including my co-author Penny Wilson, have, and have posted thoughts about it elsewhere on this board-if you do a search on the title you should be able to find the reference.

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Offline Abby

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2004, 11:52:09 PM »
I wanted to buy it once and I knew nothing about it so I asked around here and no one else seemed to know nothing about it so (I think the thread is still around here somewhere i forget which thread though) and I think it actually is a true story, though I forget how much is exaggerated...
the girl Olga was a princess I think who was also in exile along with a few other royals and her family and was directly across from the Governor's Mansion.

Offline Penny_Wilson

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2004, 12:59:04 AM »
I liked the book, though it's a little odd, and difficult to know how much -- if anything -- is exaggerated, but it's an interesting look at life in Tobolsk at the time the Romanovs lived there.

Olga Belisle is the author, and she wrote it in conjunction with Hulda Something-or-Other, whose memoirs they are.  Hulda was one of a large family of ethnic German farmers from the Ukraine.  They were sent from their prosperous farm in a forced evacuation in 1917, and made their way all the way to Tobolsk before her father was able to find work.  Hulda had two young brothers (too young for the army) and five sisters -- one younger, and four older.  The oldest two were married, one to a man who had emigrated to America (she was waiting to hear from him to go and join him), and one to a soldier who was a very newly-wed.  There is a lot of drama with these sisters being frightened that their husbands would never be able to find them again.  The other two sisters were silly, empty-headed girls who worked out of the home in Tobolsk, and fell in with the dashing Bolshevik Commissars -- I think that they stayed behind in Tobolsk to get married when Hulda and the rest of her family were allowed to return to the Ukraine.

It's well worth $15, especially given the very interesting information about the stir that the Romanovs caused in Tobolsk, and Hulda's observations about the comings and goings at the Governor's Mansion which was across the street and a bit along from her house.

The only thing I really felt was made up or exaggerated was their meeting with Yurovsky at a Bolshevik rally in Moscow -- though I suppose it might have happened.

So I'd give it two thumbs up and say "Go for it!"
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Offline Belochka

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2004, 08:38:08 AM »
With respect, I give this book a huge thumbs down. >:(

I found the use of the German und in the middle of many English sentences annoying. This style did nothing to set the mood of their conversations. The chapters which dealt with the Emperor Nikolai and Alexei read like a story. (Ch. 5). Similarily the next chapter describing Rasputin follow a similar simplistic tone.

It is difficult to believe the conversations Lenin held with Yakob Yurovsky. (Ch 8). The most startling pronouncement that he Lenin "will entrust (Yurovsky) with the greatest task ...soon" (p 42) does not ring true.

This book is loaded with similar inventive conversations, including the one with Yurovsky.

It is doubtful that Hulda would have been a party to all the events described.  

It is difficult to believe that Hulda was in the position to watch the Grand Duchesses working in Tobolsk, carrying turf on a board. (p 89) This description reminded me of the existance of such a photograph.

The most extraordinary tale was Hulda's description of seeing the Emperor, who placed his hand on his heart to mimic Hulda's similar previous action. (p 91). The ensuing conversation between herself and her mother was similarily extraordinary.

Remarkably she was to overhear a conversation that the I.F. was to be murdered in Ekaterinburg (p 106). A conversation which transpired before the I.F. was removed to that city!

I personally found this book very aggravating. I am very sceptical about the veracity of Hulda's descriptive journey across Russia. Her family may have been forced to abandon their family home and travel through Siberia, but I doubt that it was in the same manner she portrayed in her book.

I am unable to recommend this book to anyone. >:(  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Belochka »


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Offline AGRBear

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2004, 09:09:38 PM »
I wish I could find my book.

The family are GR  [German-Russian], and,  I have quite a bit of knowledge about the history of the GR.  At that time, the Bolshevik sent many families in different directions and often times without papers, horse or boots, so this part is true.  

Unfortunately,  the author wrote the history around the family and didn't give us any hints as to what Hulda had said and what was added by the author.

Because there was mention of Yurovsky,  I became very interested.  I am trying to get in contact with Hulda's family or the author.  I'll let you know if I find anything.

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Offline Vicki

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2005, 12:44:19 PM »
I finished this book last night, and I enjoyed it, but I also found parts of it frustrating because I wasn't completely certain what was fact and what was fiction.  Have any of you been in contact with Hulda's family or the author?  I don't think it was completely impossible for Hulda to have seen the Romanovs in Tobolsk (especially if she lived right across the street), but it's hard to tell how much was made up.  Did she really go into the house and have tea with Demidova and Kharitonov?  That part doesn't ring true.  And, like Belochka, I found the use of the German "und" in the middle of sentences very annoying.

The parts about Yurovsky really annoyed me because they're so obviously fictionalized.  The author makes Yurovsky a close associate of Lenin, which I don't think he was (please correct me if I'm wrong).  And then Yurovsky suddenly turns out to be nice, and feels sorry for what he did, and helps Hulda and her family get back to their home!  And that ending, where Yurovsky gets shot by the White soldiers... where did that come from?  :(

Still, I thought the book was enjoyable as long as you don't take it too seriously.  The author says that she was also working on a screenplay based on the book.  Do any of you know what happened with that?

Offline Belochka

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2005, 09:25:46 PM »
Quote
The author says that she was also working on a screenplay based on the book.  Do any of you know what happened with that?


If that information is correct, that will be one production to avoid!  :o


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Offline Vicki

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2005, 12:20:10 PM »
It was mentioned at the back of the book, but I can't find any more information about it.  So maybe she abandoned the idea.

Sorry, but I would go to see a movie based on this book.  I didn't hate it as much as you did, even though, as I said, I found some parts very annoying.

Offline Belochka

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2005, 11:20:57 PM »
That book irritated my senses immensely! :)

Perhaps the book failed to sell and thus any film ideas fell flat.


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Offline Vicki

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2005, 12:21:13 PM »
That's probably true.  :)

Offline Rodney_G.

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Re: Eyewitness in Tobolsk
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2009, 05:03:06 PM »
  Very, very late in the game I have come across this title . I thought I would have heard of it by now but not even that. It's available on Amazon now for a good price but this little book may test my limits as to how far I'll go for a little more Romanov input. Your replies haven't been encouraging. Also I would say it's not so much the price but what I'd end up with. That reference to Yurovsky later being shot by Whites kills a whale of a lot of credibility.
Rodney G.