Storm in My Heart: Memories from the Widow of Johann Most.

Author:Klikauer, Thomas
Position::Book review
 
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Helene Minkin, Storm in My Heart: Memories from the Widow of Johann Most, Tom Goyens (ed.), translated by Alisa Braun

Oakland, CA/Edinburgh: AK Press, 2015; 161pp; ISBN 9781849351973

Russian-American anarchist Helene Most (nee Minkin) was the widow of German-American anarchist Johann Most. Helene was born in 1873 in Western Russia, migrating to the USA (with her sister and father) in 1888 where she met Johann Most who lived in the USA from 1881 until his death in 1906. Long before that, while still back home, Helene's family and most, if not all, of Russia's Jewish population was exposed to frequent 'pogroms, censorship, arrests, intimidation, conscription, and expulsion from their homes' (p3). Minkin arrived in New York; its anarchist movement of the late nineteenth century dominated by German migrants of whom Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were two of the more prominent members.

Helene wrote her biography as 'a woman approaching sixty' (p25) remembering the historical period around her arrival in New York. It was the time of the 'Haymarket tragedy where five anarchists were hanged and three imprisoned with no evidence of their guilt' (p30). It was also the time of what was the first Anarchist commune in America. The commune consisted of several anarchists.

Minkin's autobiography is also a response to Emma Goldman's own autobiography. On both--Emma's autobiography and her own story--Helene Minkin sets the record straight when, for example, noting, 'Emma, the proponent of free love, suddenly became jealous of my sister and Alexander Berkman. He had fallen in love with Anna, and she with him' (p40). This led to a terrible scene in which Emma enforced her claim on Berkman. In turn, 'Anna and I left for our new place' (p42). Meanwhile, Emma also influenced Helene's feelings towards Johann Most. Minkin writes, 'I had negative feelings towards Most because Emma had said terrible things about him' (p46). Minkin's autobiography includes extensive biographical notes on Johann Most who was born in Augsburg, Germany. As a young boy 'his palate became swollen and began to rot... consuming his bones...

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