The Background to Weavers of Words

It started with a memory, a memory of a song, a memory of an Amnesty International Campaign, a memory of a name. The song was “Natalia” and the singer was Joan Baez. The writers of the song were Roy Apps, Shusha Guppy and G.T. Moore. I was searching for a topic to write about for my MA in Creative Writing at Middlesex University. I had started writing the first chapter about an English teacher living and working in Riga at the start of World War Two but I was having trouble envisaging this as a full novel at the time. Something stirred in me.

I was sitting at my dining table overlooking the street and flicking through the Internet when I came upon a poem by the American poet Jared Carter called “Samizdat.” The poem is written in free verse about the process of typing and retyping works by banned authors so that they could be read behind the Iron Curtain. This is the samizdat tradition where one person has a copy of a manuscript and then, in secret, makes duplicate carbon copies on a typewriter then passing them on to others who do the same. In this way books, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, announcements and so on were copied, duplicated, spread, distributed and read. In this way the works of Pasternak, Bulgarov, Akhmatova, Solzhenitsyn, Popper, Havel and others were read secretly by those who wanted to read them. Sometimes they were read aloud in private meetings. Sometimes they were read silently, in fear.

I moved to Czechoslovakia in early 1991 and had the pleasure of buying and reading books in English by authors whose works had been previously banned. They had been published in the West as tamizdat often from samizdat scripts. I learned about the repression of arts and literature first hand. These things came to the fore of my memory. Reading Carter’s poem reminded me of the campaign in the 1970s to free the Russian dissident Natalya Yevgenyevna Gorbanevskaya and the song Joan Baez sung during an Amnesty International Concert. I dug out the disk and listened to the song. Then I found a version by the writer/singer/poet Shusha Guppy who I remembered singing on a local news programme in the UK in the 1970s.

I read about Natalya Yevgenyevna Gorbanevskaya online and bought a copy of her account of the trial of those Russians who sat down outside the Kremlin to protest against the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia on 20th August 1968. The book was called “Red Square at Noon” and had been published in the UK by Penguin Books.

I had also been researching political prisoners during the Communist Era for my novel Stura Maja so I already had some background knowledge of events of how political prisoners, dissidents and others who had been targeted by the various branches of the KGB had been treated. An idea began to emerge.

At the time of writing I have written three quarters of the novel and successfully completed my MA. This website is a record of my research and a depository of useful sites for information about the topics in my novel. In a way it is part of the novel as it was certainly a large part of the writing process.

 

About me

 

My name is Lynn Bradshaw and I am an English language teacher, a writer, a photographer and a traveller. I hail from the northern industrial town of Wigan, formerly Lancashire but now Greater Manchester, England. I moved out when I was 18 to study history, religious studies and teaching at Edge Hill University, worked a bit, then became a volunteer ESOL teacher in Skelmersdale. Then I got my Trinity College Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and began an exciting teaching adventure in the south of England, Taiwan, Spain, Czechoslovakia Slovakia and Germany. I returned to the UK for 16 years working in further education. I have had recent experience training teachers in St Petersburg (Russia) and am now based in Krakow, Poland.

On the way I have picked up an MA in Applied Linguistics and an MA in Creative Writing as well as a Trinity College Diploma in TESOL and a Post Graduate (Teaching) Certificate in Adult Education. I have been a subject learning coach for adult education and eLearning as well as an eLearning guide.

Currently, I teach English Language in Poland as well as doing a bit of writing,  a bit of photography and a bit more research into samizdat publishing methods and what they called bibuła and drugi obieg in Poland.