The New York Times Thursday ran an obituary of one of the great characters of Russia/Soviet history in the 20th century, Antonina Pirozhkova, the widow of the great writer Isaac Babel and an important engineer in her own right.
Babel, one of the many Soviet writers/artists/intellectuals killed by Joseph Stalin, left two major works, "Red Cavalry," a searing picture of the brutal civil war after the Bolsehevik Revolution, and "Odessa Tales," portraits of Jewish life in Odessa. Thanks to Pirozhkova, we have a volume of Babel's collected works. Her tireless efforts to discover what had happened to her husband led to the rehabilitation of his reputation in the Soviet Union in 1954.
According to The Times obituary, Pirozhkova rose to chief desinger at the Metroproekt Institute, and helped design the "crown jewels of the Moscow Subway system, the Mayakovsky, Pavelets, Kiev, Arbst and Revolutionary Square stations." Pirozhkova, who died at the age of 101 in Sarasota, Fla., also wrote the memoir "At His Side: The Last Years of Isaac Babel." Late in life, she emigrated with her daughter to the United States.
Pirzozhkova holds a place among those heroic Soviets like Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov who stood as individual consciences against the Soviet state, playing major roles in its eventual destruction.