Milk from Sand by Leonila V. Montgomery


The information that the world received about life behind the Iron Curtain in the 1940’s and 1950’s was only about powerful rulers and famous performers.  We learned little about the regular citizen’s life, and nothing about what it was like growing up in Stalinist Russia. This memoir begins with a smart and strong-willed little 2-year-old with a photographic memory meeting the Germans and Partisans in 1941.  After the War, she takes you on her childhood adventures, encountering Communist Party commissars, being hungry and poor, attending summer Pioneer camp, her cow and pig, schooling by Communist Party teachers, Russian boys, atheism class, learning wonderful banned poetry, the death of Stalin, the challenges at Moscow University, and working on communal farms. The reader follows detailed and personal memories of a clever little girl as she grew and developed into young adulthood in that harsh and fear-filled country.


Praise for Milk from Sand:

"In this collection of memories, a bright, tough, adventuresome kid, by no means a saint, takes you into the post-World War II Soviet world.  She works around overwhelming evil, keeps a step ahead of it, survives it--and still sees like a child.  Her voice could not be more authentic, the world it describes more immediate. She grows into womanhood.  Unless someone like Lilia leads me into that post-WWII Soviet world, it might overwhelm me.  Definitely want her on my side."  –John Kotre, PhD, Psychologist, author of White Gloves: How We Create Ourselves Through Memory.


Excerpt from a review by Yolimari,

“I expected to experience sadness while reading a book full of anecdotes about growing up poor and in fear. To my surprise, Lilia infused her anecdotes with sagacity and levity…The most significant aspect of this book is that it is a primary source about growing up in communist Russia. Many people to this day support communism without knowing how it was growing up and living in a society ruled by it. Lilia's book brings to the surface truths about this type of regime.”


“I read your book one afternoon this week. Could not put it down as you told your history in such an open and honest way. it had me riveted to my chair, afraid to read what was next and yet I had to! Your Dad was amazing and made you who you are today.  Bravo.  Hugs.” –Lynda, Cincinnati Ohio


“I am just in love with Lilitchka....the stories are so wonderful. Her personality is so heart-warming... the little hungry troublemaker that made a successful, resilient beautiful woman. Thanks for this wonderful mental vacation of a read...a vivid window into those times. i have passed it onto my daughter because i think the stories will make her laugh and make her a better person and stronger woman, too.”–Janice Palaganas, RN, PhD, Boston


 “I read Leonila’s book in one sitting this morning.  I have enjoyed it.  Would you come talk to my class?”–Professor Cathy Frierson, University of New Hampshire, Russian Studies Dept, author of Children of the Gulag, and Silence Was Salvation: Child Survivors of Stalin's Terror and World War II in the Soviet Union.


“I finished reading your book yesterday and I think it’s terrific. It’s very effective and affecting to hear the story of life in Russia told by a child – through her childhood and into adulthood. The difficulties you endured, and the resilience you showed throughout so many different forms of oppression! It’s inspiring and humbling. I confess I had a little trouble in the beginning believing that such a young child could do some of the things you did, but eventually it becomes clear that you were a remarkable child in a remarkable family living in remarkable times. The writing also captures your speech patterns perfectly. I felt like I was hearing you talk to me.” –Nancy, New York City


“The book gave fascinating glimpses into a closed society, dominated by a fortress mentality and motivated by a crusading ideology. This is therefore a story not only of a young Russian girl growing up in a family of resisters and then in the austerities of postwar Russia but of growing up in a world utterly foreign, and therefore all the more fascinating, to American readers. Such readers can't help but wonder how they would have fared under such trying circumstances.”–Charley Finn, poet, author of Please Hear What I'm Not Saying


“Have read the book that Lilia wrote.  What a strong person she is.  Interesting that she lived under the communist for so long, and yet how she coped/survived and came away strong.  Her family was a big factor.”–Barb, Ohio

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