Sketches from a Quaker’s Moscow Journal

Lewes author Patricia Cockrell is in print with Sketches from a Quaker’s Moscow Journal

Patricia Cockrell
Patricia Cockrell

(New Generation Publishing, £10, available most online book shops including Waterstones and Wordery).

Patricia, aged 78, said: “The book gives a picture of life in Russia during the upheavals after the collapse of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. There were many challenges but also opportunities, and it was at this time that I was appointed to represent Quakers in Russia and, working with others, to set up Friends House Moscow to encourage the growth of civil society and to support vulnerable people including victims of war and poverty.

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“For 20 years I had written letters to all our prime ministers and to the presidents of Russia trying to establish a school exchange for my students. Eventually in 1988 I was invited to take my sixth-formers to School 31 in Moscow – the first official school exchange.

“Fluent Russian gave me access to all sorts of people from government officials to street children and grants from the European Union allowed me to work with Russian medical personnel on various projects including hospice development, for which I was awarded the MBE. I travelled widely from the Caucasus to the Arctic monitoring projects and encouraging non-governmental organisations.

“I had kept a journal during my years in Moscow and I had also kept one copy of all the reports I wrote. Friends had encouraged me to turn these into a book, and lockdown gave me the opportunity to sit still and get on with it.

“There is a narrative thread running through, but the sketches can be read as individual chance meetings and glimpses of life – funny, beautiful, charming, challenging, frustrating, dangerous – in refugee camps, in hospitals and hospices, on trains, in remote villages and in war zones in plus 30 degrees and in minus 30.

“Rereading my notes and reliving the experiences has been both painful and rewarding.

“Ever fascinating, Russia is still an important country on the world stage and there is a good deal of interest in Russian history, culture and politics. My time there coincided with the ten years of democratic development.”

Patricia has been in print before: “I co-wrote Olives and Barbed Wire (Zaytoon Press) after serving as an ecumenical accompanier in Palestine and Israel. I realised that I had a poor understanding of the stresses in the Middle East so I took a course in Arabic at Sussex University and applied for a placement in the West Bank in 2010.

“I have always enjoyed writing.”