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
Robert 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.
Suhs, Mardi. "Living 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.
Death of a Past Life
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