Roger L. Simon

The Anne Volokh Conspiracy

The appearance of the profile of blogger… dare I call someone so serious a ‘celebrity’?… okay, ‘notable’… Eugene Volokh as our PJMedia profile today prompts me to tell a story. (Don’t go to sleep now!)

Considerably before I met Eugene Volokh , I met his mother Anne. In 1990, I found myself on a screenwriter’s tour of the Soviet Union arranged between our Writers Guild and their Cinematographers Union. Glasnost was already underway and the intention was the usual cultural exchange of that late Soviet period. Anne, a fairly recent immigrant from the USSR to Los Angeles, turned up on the tour to help translate.

One night in Tblisi, Georgia, we were all sitting around late in the hotel drinking the local schnapps. The subject of course – how could it be otherwise in Georgia for foreigners? – was the most famous or infamous of all Georgia’s sons – Joseph Stalin. Anne began to tell a story. A school girl, she was sitting in her class room in the Ukraine (I think it was the Ukraine) in 1953 when it was announced that Stalin had died. Every other young girl and boy in the room immediately broke into hysterics, sobbing uncontrollably for the passing of Papa Joe. Anne, as she told us, didn’t know what to do. She was terrified that she couldn’t cry. Unlike her classmates, Anne’s parents – Jews – had secretly told their daughter what a monster Stalin was, although it is hard to conceive that anyone at that time had any idea of the extent, that the man was responsible for tens of millions of deaths. I remember sitting there quietly in the Tblisi hotel, listening to Anne talk, thinking about Anne the teenage girl and feeling a lump grow in my throat. I was reminded of what privileged and fortunate lives we Americans have lived, at least those of us who did not have to flee from the likes of Stalin to get here.

Some time later I became friendly with Anne, attending parties at her house given by Movieline Magazine, which she published, and for Sister City events for St. Petersburg and Los Angeles (an amusing mating). I also heard about her son, the software prodigy. Several years after that I met that son, then the accomplished legal scholar at UCLA and blogosphere legend. We too became friends. I think I can speak for my co-founder Charles Johnson and our Supervising Exec Editor Glenn Reynolds to say we are proud to have him part of Pajamas Media, under its old or new name.