In 1907, Princess Sophy ('Sofka') DolgorOuky was born in St Petersburg. Members of the Imperial family had attended her parents' wedding earlier that same year, and the child was born into a privileged world of nurses, private tutors and elegant tea parties. The Russian Revolution caused the princess to flee across Europe to England, but it was the Second World War that left the deepest marks on her adult life. During those years, she left her first husband and lost her second. Later, she was interned in a Nazi prison camp, where she discovered Communism and showed great bravery in defending the rights of the Jewish prisoners. It was her Communism which took her back to the Soviet Union as an improbable tour guide for British workers. And Communism, albeit indirectly, brought her the last love of her life, Jack, a working-class Londoner who had never been abroad. Sofka's colourful life also included a close friendship with Laurence Olivier, innumerable lovers, some serious, some quickly discarded, and an abiding love of reading and especially poetry.
This affectionate portrait of the 'red princess' by her granddaughter and namesake uses letter, diaries and interviews to recreate a vanished world and also explore the author's own Russian roots.
Sofka Zinovieff was born in England and is of Russian extraction. She studied anthropology at Cambridge; then, after spells living in Russia and Italy, she settled with her family in Greece, an experience which she described in her first, highly acclaimed book, Eurydice Street (Granta, 2003), which has been translated into three languages.