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Boris Frankel

I first met Boris Frankel when he was a thirteen-year-old, in the pages of a file at the National Archives of Australia. I was working on Russian migrant families in Australia that decided to return to the Soviet Union, but then tried to come back to Australia. Boris and his sister Genia had travelled more than 1,500 kilometres from the Crimea to Moscow, alone, in 1959, in the hopes of persuading British authorities to allow their return to Australia. It was a remarkable story: two teenagers who negotiated Soviet bureaucracy and surveillance, made an impassioned plea, and secured the support of a British ambassador. The file even contained letters the children had written to Prime Minister Robert Menzies – their own, teenaged voices. Letters like this are a historian’s dream: I felt I had got to the heart of the story. And yet, in Boris Frankel’s historical memoir, No Country for Idealists, I saw the trip to Moscow anew. In the texture of Frankel’s narrative – their Siberian cabin-mate on the train journey (named Rasputin!), the ambassador’s chef who cooked them breakfast – the wonder of the journey emerged afresh.

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Bauman’s point of departure

Dear Editor,

Boris Frankel bursts in through open doors. He gives Zygmunt Bauman and me stick for speaking our truths (ABR, October 2001). Viewed in its own terms, what remains of the Left in Australia is in a bad way because it has failed (1) to clarify its ethics, norms and values and (2) to develop alternative visions and policies upon them; because (3) there is no popular bearer or social movement available to carry these invisible ends; and (4) because there is no evidence of popular support for a new society, present unhappiness and misery notwithstanding. If this is not modern, what is it? (If the Soviet and Nazi experiences were not modern, what were they?)

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