Writing Gulag to Rhapsody: A Survivor’s Journey

I once wrote for the Miami Herald, but an editor’s displeasure drove me away. Then a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came my way 20 years ago.

Paul Tarko, former Siberian Gulag inhabitant and “freedom fighter” who taught kids to resist the Russian attack in 1956 Budapest and wanted to preserve his memories in written form, telephoned me. I agreed to meet with him, observed the disorganized notes he put together, and realized I could write his true history in narrative form. Paul was the perfect protagonist.

I am descended from a Hungarian refugee big-band musician named Virgil, who took his own life when I was 16. My father never shared his history with me; therefore, Paul became a soul-mate. And my actual Hungarian history seemed irrelevant.

Using the phone to get inside his head before he went to bed, I asked him everything he could remember about vital moments in his life so I could imagine being Paul, visualizing his surroundings vividly.

At our first book signing in 2002, a Hungarian woman in her mid-50s walked up to me and said, “Your book is the best one I ever read.”

The “best?” My English-teacher mother would be proud.

That’s when dreams of being a respected author took hold. And that’s why I’m working on my own book.

Meanwhile, with a Russian bully threatening a third world war with its occupation of Ukraine, I feel Paul close to me. A book about Paul would bear comparison with the evil Russia represents.

Copies of the book I wrote for the late Paul Tarko are still available. Send me a request at mason@masonloika.com, and you will receive pricing and shipping information.

You might glean a true-life perspective on what’s going on with Russia.

One thought on “Writing Gulag to Rhapsody: A Survivor’s Journey”

  1. Masons book is a beautiful compilation of an indomitable spirit, Mr. Tarko. This is a biography well worth reading. In many way it reminded me of a kindred spirit, Tivadar Soros, another Hungarian who had spent time in a Russian Gulag and was lucky enough to have survived it. Tivadars’ was an autobiography published after his death and several years after the publication of Gulag to Rapsody. His son George Soros the philanthropist published it. Both these book deserve to sit side by side as testaments to mid 20th. century horrors and the power of individuals to overcome and create new lives. for themselves.

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