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The Crimea War saw the advent of routine use of anesthesia in surgery.

Russia as well as the Allies (France, England, and Turkey) were somewhat reluctant to use chloroform because of frequent overdosing. Sometimes the nearly dead man could be brought back to consciousness by shouting his name into his ear and then giving him a large drink of wine. Alcohol (booze) was thought to combat shock and was still routinely used for that purpose in the U.S. Civil War.

Eventually Russia’s supplies of chloroform ran low, and when one patient cried out as surgeons began to cut into his leg without the use of anesthesia, a Russian surgeon punched him in the face.

At least one French soldier refused chloroform when his arm was amputated because he wanted to watch.

Antique Bone Saw circa 1850

Bone Saw circa 1850


The Protagonist:  Slumped-Shouldered Gloom

The leading man or woman is the character whose story lies at the novel's core.  Ideally thatFinal Front Cover HDIGH small size jpg character should be someone whom the reader can relate to or is cheering to success. I mean, really, who wants to read about losers? 

So why did I pick a milksop to write about in How Did I Get Here?  The most interesting event in Andrey's lackluster childhood was a year-long bout with anxiety-induced hiccups.  His spiritless teenage years weren’t any better; his notable exploit was hooking up with a neighbor girl in the church bell tower.

What does an author do when faced with a main character who is a cynical, horny, insipid recluse?  In writing How Did I Get Here?  I was confronted with a protagonist whose childhood resulted in an adult who didn’t engage people (including readers!) 

My response was to write the story from a present-tense, first-person point of view, enabling the reader to understand what was going on inside Andrey’s head, which was a lot more interesting than what his outward persona portrayed.  In entering Andrey's thoughts (and enjoying hefty doses of his wry sense of humor), my goal was to keep you, the reader, entertained in the midst of a gruesome war.


Russian Rulers History Podcast
The Crimean War

Red Square Many people have told me that they knew next to nothing about the Crimean War piqued prior to reading How Did I Get Here? 
If your interest in the Crimean War piqued, check out Russian Rulers History Podcast.  It contains 13 podcasts that cover the gamut of the Crimean War, everything from the role of Leo Tolstoy in the conflict to how the war altered the dynamics of power in Europe.  If you have speakers and an Internet connection, you should have no trouble accessing the podcasts.

1. Visit the
Russian Rulers History Podcast website. 
2. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
3. In the Keyword Search box, type Crimean War.  Click Search Now.


Gorky Tolstoy 1900
"Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands,
but let it go and you learn at once how big and precious it is.

                                        -  Maxim Gorky (1868-1936)

                                        photograph of Gorky (right) with Leo Tolstoy in 1900








Old Style vs. New Style
Warning: The Following Is Convoluted!

Russia is unique in many ways, one of which is how it measures time.

old dates calendar during nicholass reign russia used the old style julian calendarFor eons, most of Europe used a calendar that dated back to the time of Julius Caesar.  However, the Julian (aka Old Style
) calendar had a slight problem - it was off by one day every 128 years.  Not one to be content with sloppy timekeeping, Pope Gregory instituted the Gregorian (aka New Style) calendar in 1582, which eventually became the world’s standard. 

Russia, on the other hand, clung to the Old Style calendar until 1918.  So for centuries, the date in Russia lagged behind the Western European calendar.  During the 19th century, the difference was 12 days.  During the 20th century, the difference was 13 days.
Here's an example of the confusion.  The Emancipation Manifesto that freed the serfs was signed by Tsar Alexander II on Sunday, February 19, 1861 (Old Style).  The following day, Monday, March 4 (New Style), Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president of the United States.

In 1918, the Bolsheviks decided to get in line with the rest of Europe and switched to the Gregorian calendar.  Thus, Russia’s October Revolution occurred on the Old Style date of October 25, 1918, but the event is now remembered on November 7 (New Style).
Imagine doing research on the 1850's Crimean War in preparation for writing How Did I Get Here, in which one of the military forces used Old Style while its opponents used New Style.  In addition, there's inconsistent use of the two calendars by books, articles, and online references.  Then try to coordinate the actual events (some New Style, some Old Style, and some not designated as either) into a fictional story in which timing is crucial. 
 My forehead is still black-and-blue from beating it against my desktop!

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While I was conducting research for Who Is to Blame, my first novel in the Petrovo series, I kept bumping into this thing called the Crimean War (1853-1856) which pitted Russia against England and France.  It became the setting for my second novel, How Did I Get Here.
One of the reasons the Crimean War grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go was the staggering carnage on the battlefield, with an even greater number of fatalities due to disease, malnutrition, and winter exposure.  Not until World War I would more people die as victims of war. 
In his book, The Legacy of the Crimean War, anthropologist Robert Edgerton sums up the Crimean War with this statement:  "Perhaps the most fundamental lesson to be learned from a look back at the Crimean War is how easy it is for nations to blunder into wars that serve no purpose or cannot be won."
Two thumbs up for Edgerton's book - not as a book about war, but for its insights into the human reaction to war's atrocities.


           A sparrow in the hand is better than a cock on the roof

 English equivalent:  
           A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
You'll find more Russian proverbs that run amuck in translation in my free, 4-times a year newsletter.
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Where did the Romanovs get their coffee?

                                                                                     ~ Tsarbucks

 Alexander II small



Tsar Nicholas Alexander Romanov

The last tsar,  1868-1918


For more slavic slapstick and wacky historical tidbits, view the current edition of my e-newsletter

Petrovo Potpourri is a 10-minute visit to the Land of the Tsars
Escape from your busy day & 
chuckle while you learn   

4-times-a-year, free e-newsletter Petrovo Potpourri

More Slavic Slapstick plus 
 - Russian proverbs that run amuck in translation
 - Jaw-dropping objets d'arts
 - Featured books about Russia’s bygone years
 - No spam. No sales gimmicks. Cancel anytime.


Do you have a photo of your book group discussing Who Is to Blame?  or How Did I Get Here?  

Let's showcase it on my website and in my newsletter, Petrovo Potpourri.

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Hollys book club



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No gimmicks.  No strings attached.  No surprises.   You have my word.

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If you were a female Russian serf 150 years ago, you could expect to:    

     -  have several miscarriages

     -  give birth to 7 to 8 live babies

     - bury 2 of those babies within the first year of life

     -  have 4 or 5 of them celebrate their 5th birthday

Convalescent Lemoch Carl x small






Kirill Vikentievich Lemokh

The Convalescent





Sig email Eliz Andrey 283x


How Did I Get Here? is the story of a cynical, funny, very horny Russian medical student during and after the 1850's Crimean War.

Listen to the first 3 minutes of the story and watch the video trailer at

Available at major on-line retailers in paper, eBook, and Audible. If you prefer to support your local bookstore, they can order the book for you.