When most parents consider sending their child to summer camp, they imagine a sunny lake a few hours out of the city. In 1977, the parents of 11-year-old Kirsten Koza sent their pigtailed, sass-talking offspring on a summer trip to the Soviet Union—with only fifty dollars in her pocket. Lost in Moscow tells the story of Kirsten’s summer camp hijinks: evading the Soviet Red Army in a foot race through and around Red Square, receiving extended radiation treatments for a minor case of tonsillitis, and making a gut-churning, unauthorized parachute jump—without being totally certain whether her parachute would open or even stay on.
Told from the point of view and in the voice of the young Kirsten, Lost in Moscow is sex, politics, religion, fashion, and finance through the eyes of an eleven-year-old. Hilarious and at times hair-raising, this is a highly unusual travel memoir—a story about children, but definitely not for children.
Suggested Book Club Questions for Lost in Moscow
- Why did the Soviet Union pay for children from around the world to come to their nation and experience Summer Camp, when much of what was offered could only be ridiculed by first world nations?
- Do you think the luggage was actually lost? For what reasons would it be taken? Why would some luggage be returned and not other pieces?
- Religious suppression is one topic explored in Lost in Moscow. What are the pros and cons of religious suppression?
- Why does communism fail today and why does it work on television such as in the well-known science fiction series Star Trek?
- Today Moscow is considered to be the most expensive city in Europe to live. The transition from Communism to Capitalism been far from smooth. Who do you think is most effected and how?
- Why would the Soviets have shown the Canadians the "other" camp?
- Why do you think the United States sent troubled children to represent their country in the USSR?
- Why do you think almost all the doctors in the USSR were women? Will the same thing ever happen in the west?
- The Soviets placed huge significance in the family unit, yet every holiday all the children were sent to camps, often thousands of miles from their homes. How do you think they rationalized this?
- The Canadian children in Lost in Moscow were perceived by the Soviets to be spoiled brats? Can you defend these children or were they in fact spoiled brats?
- Lenin stated that theatre should not be mere spectacle. Out of the Soviet theatre came such greats as Stanislavsky and Chekov. Stanislavsky developed his method while under house arrest in a time when Stalin declared that all theatre had to be based on social realism. Chekov, late career, was banned from having anything to do with Moscow intellectuals. Yet we are so familiar with Soviet artists fleeing the country due to censorship. Do you think artists such as Nureyev and Barishnikov were fleeing due to their dance or art being censored, in a quest for artistic freedom, or due to the greater temptations offered by the west? What happens to an artist's work when he leaves a country where his work was considered daring, extreme and dangerous, to a country where he has the freedom to express as he wishes? Is his work then still on the edge or is there a great danger of him becoming homogenous?
- Did Kirsten's sidewalk painting actually pose any kind of threat or was she being censored by a low-level bureaucrat?
- Today the patronage and generous funding of the arts by the Soviet government is gone. Artists are in the marketplace. Before the collapse, to succeed as an artist one had to conform to the will and guidelines of Soviet ideals. Today to be bought or produced the artist has to produce work that will sell or be funded. How great really is this difference?
Kirsten Koza received a BA in Theatre from Dalhousie University and did her post-graduate work in England. Her play Second Night Syndrome premiered at the Corbett Theatre in London in 1996. She has taught at the University of East London and was the Artistic Director of The Red Barn Theatre, Canada's oldest professional summer theatre.