of a Past Life
By Robert N. Reincke
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University
Libraries, Fargo, North Dakota, 2009, 333 pages, 2006, softcover.
Death of a Past Life, written by Robert N. Reincke, MBA,
and edited by Stephen M. Herzog, PhD, historian of 20th-Century
eastern Europe and Russia, is the true story of an elite German-Russian
family’s horrific travails from the burgeoning of the St.
Petersburg Bloody Sunday Massacre of 1905, through pre-revolutionary
St. Petersburg and elitist Tsarskoe Selo, to the Russian countryside
in the Lenin pre-Stalin era, through Yaraslavl, back through Leningrad
and near death through the Siege to a desperate evacuation to the
Caucuses, and to Germany via Berlin and the countryside, finally
ending in an impoverished immigration to Ellis Island in 1949.
Actual photos of this family illuminate the era they lived in as
they experience first the grandiosity, and then the horrors created
by their country’s leaders and followers. The book is flavored
with research of the intricacies, some forgotten, of the world as
it was. It is fraught with the external chaos caused by no less
than two World Wars and a Revolution that threw an entire civilization
into fear and flight. The scenes, settings, and events of this classic,
Russian epic are not imaginary. They are real. And the tyranny of
the period in which this story took place is neither that long ago
nor that far flung from the potential of what we can recreate.
Robert N. Reincke, the author and grandson of the book’s
protagonist, Nina, has taken the considerable number of stories
he was raised with, added historical background information where
possible to add further depth and broader societal episodes to the
stories told, and filled in the complications of human interactions,
emotions, subtleties and dialogue in the form of a biographical
novel. The chapters are based upon actual incidents communicated
by mostly the main protagonist, Nina, Robert’s grandmother,
Omi, who was born in 1906 and will be 100 years old at the publication
of this book.
During the time period in which Robert wrote the story, he re-interviewed
his grandmother, taping and videoing what he could, interviewed
his mother, and used a little black book that his grandfather kept,
which dated events that occurred during and after the Siege. Where
the events written about occurred before anything recorded by Robert’s
grandmother, grandfather, Nick, or mother, Ann, they have been reconstructed
to be as true to the nature, character, look and feel of the period
as researched and provided by his grandmother in years shortly after
their occurrence. There also seemed to be something else at work
in the writing of the book, which can only be ascribed to the metaphysical
and seeming inference of details that were later corroborated that
could have only come from the beyond -- perhaps as other writers
have noted, Robert’s deceased ancestors, in an attempt to
be heard, were speaking to him as well.
About the Author
Reincke was born in Detroit, Michigan, in October of 1963, one month
before the JFK assassination and seven months after the death of
his grandfather, Nicholas. From his earliest days right through
to his adulthood, Robert heard the many stories his omi told him
about the idyllic days of life as a wealthy German family in the
St. Petersburg of the last Tsar. The La Belle Époque was
something that Robert fantasized was truly his own era instead of
his upper-middle class suburban Michigan one, and he always took
a great interest in them and the family genealogy.
Robert has most recently worked as a writer of business plans specifically
for investor immigrants, (www.immigrationbusinessplans.com).
Robert has been published in two scholarly articles concerning business
plan writing submittal requirements for the Department of Homeland
Security as it applies to immigration attorneys (search Robert Reincke
at www.ilw.com ). He’s also
won an Honorary Award for a short story submitted to the scholarly
Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia,
worked as an instructor for Otis College of Art and Design teaching
artists (toy designers) business and business plan writing skills,
and taught writing (business plan) at Los Angeles Community College.
In his prior life as a professional businessman, Robert, a Master's
of Business Administration, worked at some of America’s top
corporations, as a theatrical contracts business representative
for the Screen Actors Guild, and as a consultant to the Theatrical
Department of the Director’s Guild of America. Partially in
purposeful contrast to the above, he also spent five years toiling
as an international male fashion model, of which Robert has completed
one of two memoirs to be published at a later date. Additional complementary
information about Robert can be found on his website www.robertreincke.com
where you may also find his email address to contact him directly.
Nick as a student.
Anni in 1949.
Josephine and Leonid, great-grandparents of the author, Robert
Reincke, (circa 1900).
Great-uncle Vova who died of starvation
during the siege.
of book by Alex Herzog
of book by Edna Boardman
Through a Century: Russian Immigrant Honored
With Book Based on her War Memories." Cadillac News,
13 December 2006.
Suhs, Mardi. "Through
the Eyes of a Child: Immigrant Recalls War-Torn
Childhood of Escaping Russia." Cadillac News, 13 December 2006.