During a discussion about Cavendish, Vermont’s World War II veterans, third grader Isabelle Gross became very upset when she learned about the writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s treatment during the war. She couldn’t understand how a decorated war hero could be removed from the front lines and imprisoned just because he had made comments about the leader of his country. “It isn’t fair,” she kept saying.
Since Isabelle, like many American children, hears adults discussing local and national politics, it was difficult for her to imagine that this was not possible under the Communists and Stalin.
In addition to her concerns about fairness, she wanted to know, “What happened?” “Did they hurt him?” “Is he okay?”
The Writer Who Changed History: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn answers Isabelle’s questions and maps out the life of a writer, whose words literally changed the course of history. His books, such as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Gulag Archipelago brought the plight of the Soviet Union people to the world. Along the way, his own life was significantly altered not only by imprisonment and exile from the country he loved but he also received considerable recognition for his literary work winning the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and other prestigious awards. Maybe most important, he lived long enough to see the Soviet Union collapse and was able to return home to Russia.
While many will consider Solzhenitsyn a hero, he was an agent of change. As such he achieved what he did because of the strong support of friends, family and a network of like-minded people.
The Cavendish Historical Society, not only recognizes the historical significance of its former resident-Solzhenitsyn lived here for almost 18 of the 20 years he was in exile- but also the importance in sharing his story so children will understand how one person can make a difference in literally “writing” a wrong.
We are happy to report that Isabelle is now in the 5th grade, and is pleased that the permanent Solzhenitsyn exhibit will be located in the Old Stone Church across from her home. “We can keep an eye on things,” she said.
When visiting the Cavendish Historical Society Museum’s temporary exhibit, carefully studying the pictures, Isabelle noted a picture of him as a prisoner, she commented, “He wasn’t happy there. He looks very sad.” While we agreed with her, we could also say, “but it worked out and look what he and others were able to do.” She nodded her head and said, “Yes.”
It is with deep gratitude that we thank Isabelle for being the inspiration for this book and to the Solzhenitsyn family for their significant contribution in making the book a reality.
All proceeds from the sale of The Writer Who Changed History: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn will be used for the Cavendish Historical Society’s Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn project.