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Local Author To Tell Soviet Tales At Wyckoff Library

Elena Ghorokova, of Ridgewood, will be at the Wyckoff Public Library to discuss her first memoir next week.
Elena Ghorokova, of Ridgewood, will be at the Wyckoff Public Library to discuss her first memoir next week. Photo Credit: Elena Ghorokova

WYCKOFF, N.J. — Growing up in a totalitarian society inspired immigrant author Elena Gorokhova to compile her memories into a memoir titled "A Mountain of Crumbs."

The Ridgewood resident will tell stories next week about her childhood in Soviet Russia and her 1980 journey to the United States during a reading at the Wyckoff Public Library.

Gorokhova was raised in Leningrad, Russia, and shielded by the media from anything outside of the Soviet Union.

“The truth was that there was nothing available about the West in the Soviet media," said Gorokhova, whose mother was a surgeon on the front lines of World War II. "And what was available was untrue."

Gorokhova lived a double life for 25 years, along with several other citizens. Some still do, she said.

Her sister was a professional actress -- and in some ways, so was she.

“One half was for the people you knew, family and friends you trusted," Gorokhova said. "And then you had this official side when you went out to talk to officials and people you didn’t know. You would present this side that everything was fine.”

But it wasn’t. For one thing, buying milk, meat or any basic food was nearly impossible. Gorokhova knew that there must be something better elsewhere. She was deemed a traitor when she left Russia at the end of the authoritarian era in 1980.

"It was very nationalistic and there's very sick patriotism," Gorokhova said. "And this is what's happening there now."

Nostalgia will always remain for Gorokhova, who this year published her memoir about her life as an American citizen, "Russian Tattoo."

"Not for the country or society, but for the places, people and friends," she said, "for that sort of happy childhood that we all remember.”

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