From yesterday’s New York Times
June 13, 2004
IGNAT SOLZHENITSYN understands why so many people have warm thoughts
of Ronald Reagan, but one of his earliest memories is on the frigid side.
In 1980, Ignat was an 8-year-old transplanted to Vermont by his father, the famous chronicler of Siberia’s gulags. As Ignat tells the story, on the morning after the presidential election he got a taste of American political re-education at the progressive private school he and his brothers attended.
In response to the Reagan victory, the school’s flag was lowered to half-staff, and the morning assembly was devoted to what today would be called grief counseling. The headmaster mourned “what America would become once the dark night of fascism descended under the B-movie actor,” recalled Mr. Solzhenitsyn, who is now the music director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. “At one point he interrupted himself to inquire if anyone present did not share his gloomy view of the Reagan victory.”
The only students to raise their hands were Ignat and his two brothers, Yermolai and Stephan. After a stony silence, he recalled, they were sent outside, without their coats, to meditate on the error of their ways underneath the lowered flag. Vermont in November was hardly Siberia, but there was frost on the ground, and they spent an hour shivering and exercising to stay warm. Still, Ignat said, their political exile was a relief from sitting in the auditorium listening to the party line.