Edited by Michael Darlow and Debbie Slater, and translated by Luba Ioffe, Born in Siberia is the story of a remarkable Russian woman and her family from 1917 until the present – told in her own words, together with some explanatory notes and occasional commentary by Darlow and her friend Ioffe.
In 1966 and 1968 Michael Darlow worked in Russia on two major television co-productions between the British ITV company, Granada, and the main Soviet press and information agency, APN Novosti. There he met Tamara Astafieva, a senior editor in Novosti’s television department, assigned by the agency to be his researcher in Russia. During his frequent visits to Russia he got to know Tamara well, met her young son and her husband and learned a little about her life. Then, Tamara fell out of favour with her Russian bosses and another woman, a stern-faced party apparatchik, was assigned to take on her role. After one final, short meeting Darlow did not see Tamara again.
Almost forty years later, after the fall of the Soviet regime, out of the blue he received a letter from Tamara. It enclosed a book of poems she had written and three impressionistic essays, describing important events in her life and the lives of members of her family. A correspondence began and, over time, a deeply personal and moving picture started to emerge of the life of one typical, but also exceptional, Russian woman and her family from shortly after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution until the present day. The letters have formed the basis for this unusual memoir. Tamara’s life and that of her family is a distillation, an archetype, for the lives and experiences of millions of other ordinary Russians across the decades since 1917.