Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I like happy endings

It's no secret that the book "Lillian Alling: the journey home" ends with her leaving Alaska, crossing the Bering Strait and landing in Siberia.

Of course that begs the question: what happened to her after that? Because I love a happy ending, in fact it's a requirement for me when I'm reading something, I ended the book so we can still hope for Lillian's safety. We can leave the book with hope that Lillian's skills, determination and dogged eccentricities were enough for her to get back home, where ever home was to her.

But in reality, I was always afraid that she met a different fate. Not only was she arriving in Siberia just as winter was coming, but she was heading into 1929 Soviet Union without a passport, as an illegal foreigner and precedent would say this would end badly.

I don't want to think that Lillian sacrificed three or more years of her life struggling to cross North America by herself just to end up starving and dying in a frozen gulag.

Information about gulag prisoners is not easy to come by. Certainly, if you have the appropriate knowledge of the person's name and identity, it might be possible that some archive will hold the truth. But because it's iffy as to whether Lillian Alling was even her real name, she is tricky to find.

Yes, searches were made by me and by professional Russian researchers and genealogists, but came up with nothing. Checking in with Russian journalists, writers, bloggers and archives revealed that the story of Lillian Alling, or even a similar story of someone crossing the Bering Strait to Siberia, was unknown.

But who knows. Perhaps someone in Russia will read "Lilian Alling: the journey home" and their grandmother will say, "oh yes, that woman, I remember her..."

Wouldn't that be a happy ending? It would indeed.
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