I cannot find anything on the Internet which describes what happened to the rest of Ayn Rand's family after she left Russia. Wikipedia says that they couldn't get the papers to travel to the US. Does anyone know what happened to them? Did they simply live out their lives in the USSR? If the Russian government found out how famous Ayn Rand became in America, certainly they must have looked for any potential anti-Communists in their own country related to her. Were they killed?
After a little digging, I found this article which describes what happened to the youngest sister, Eleanora.
The link that Collin has now provided in the update to the question is excellent -- a highly informative synopsis of what happened regarding Nora, the youngest of Ayn Rand's sisters. (Ayn Rand was the oldest.) There is some additional information in the book, Ayn Rand, a biography by Jeff Britting, published by Overlook Duckworth (2004), in compact hardcover form (5" x 7"). The book's main focus is Ayn Rand, not her family, except insofar as her family directly affected her life. Page 3 observes:
Rand's two younger sisters excelled in the arts. Natalia, known as Natasha (born in 1907) studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and became an accomplished pianist. Eleanora, known as Nora (born in 1910), aspired to a career in the fine arts.
There are photos of Ayn Rand with one or both of her sisters on page 5 (1912), p. 6 (1910), and p. 10 (1914). Page 30 describes "a series of increasingly bizarre strategies [by her family] to assist Rand in realizing her ambition [to be a screenwriter in America] and to safeguard their own survival." By 1925, she finally received permission to visit America, a visit that she and her family secretly hoped to make permanent. Two examples of paintings and drawings by Nora representing Ayn Rand's 1926 departure for America and her early years in America are shown on page 32. Page 44 describes her family's positive reactions to Ayn Rand's play, "Night of January 16th," and page 45 shows another romantic drawing by Nora and a 1934 photo of Nora with her husband. Page 54 shows a final radiogram in which Ayn Rand's father wrote, simply, "cannot get permission" from the Soviet authorities to visit Ayn Rand in America. The caption also reads, in part, "In the late 1940s Rand learned that her father had died in 1939 and her mother in 1940, both of natural causes. Her sister Natalia died during a World War II air raid, while Nora's status remained unknown."
There is no further news about Nora until page 106, which is filled by a photo of a "Clipping [in Russian] from the December 1971 issue of Amerika magazine seen in Leningrad by Rand's sister, Nora, leading to their reunion [in America] in April 1974." Page 107 further explains:
After a separation of forty-six years, what began as a joyous occasion turned, sadly, into a realization of an unbridgeable personal distance, for they no longer shared important values. Nora disliked her sister's works and philosophy, and after a short stay, she voluntarily returned to the Soviet Union.
Page 107 also includes another photo of Nora from 1973. I didn't find anything further about Nora after p. 107, but Collin's link provides some additional details of The Ayn Rand Institute's efforts to preserve as much history relating to Ayn Rand as possible.
Three of Ayn Rand's 1973 letters to Nora are reprinted in Letters of Ayn Rand, edited by Michael Berliner. The page references can be found by checking the index under "Drobyshev, Nora." The letters provide additional insight into Ayn Rand's excitement and anticipation upon learning of Nora's survival after so many years without news. Apparently Nora's husband accompanied her on the visit to meet Ayn Rand in America, and both of them mutually decided voluntarily to return to the USSR. I cannot imagine what they must have been thinking, unless it's simply a concrete demonstration of the power of a thoroughly misintegrated philosophy of life absorbed and assimilated over the span of a lifetime.
answered Nov 01 '13 at 00:40
Ideas for Life ♦
I remember hearing this (probably) apocryphal story when I was young, but I never found out the origin of it.
An Eastern Potentate, newly elevated to his throne upon his father's death, decided, as an act of benevolence, to free all of the prisoners in the dungeons he had inherited from his father. It must be remembered that serious criminals such as murderers and robbers and the like would have already been punished with maiming or death and not kept within the depths of his prison.
Another tale of this type is the character of Brooks Hatlen in the Shawshank Redemption. He had spent so long in prison that he didn't know how to live on the outside. As Red, reflecting on his own parole and Brooks' solution puts it;
There's a harsh truth to face. No way I'm gonna make it on the outside. All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole, so maybe they'd send me back. Terrible thing, to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well. All I want is to be back where things make sense. Where I won't have to be afraid all the time.
And a related parable also involving an "Eastern Potentate." (Those Persians...)
A courtier is brought before the king having been found guilty of a heinous crime. The King said, "Since you were one of my favorites, you may choose your form of execution. Or," he said, gesturing to a large black door set flush into the wall of the audience room, "You may choose the Black Door."
And finally, a parable - also with a Persian King - in contrast;
“One of your most ancient writers, a historian named Herodotus, tells of a thief who was to be executed. As he was taken away he made a bargain with the king: in one year he would teach the king's favorite horse to sing hymns. The other prisoners watched the thief singing to the horse and laughed. "You will not succeed," they told him. "No one can." To which the thief replied, "I have a year, and who knows what might happen in that time. The king might die. The horse might die. I might die. And perhaps the horse will learn to sing.” (As related in Niven & Pournelle, "The Mote in God's Eye")
I think that what happened to Nora was a variation of the first 3 examples. And while hers may be an almost archetypical case, the fact of the matter is that this kind of self-limitation is the inevitable concomitant of authoritarian governments everywhere. Even in the United States.
Imagine, if you will, an ordinary citizen who, while not politically connected, is concerned about the course of his country's governance. He finds like-minded individuals and expresses himself, if not eloquently, then plainly and forcefully, against the programme enacted by his country's political establishment, even those ostensibly of his own political persuasion.
He returns home, not satisfied, but hopeful that some change in impetus has been achieved and looking forward to continuing that reversal.
But, he reckons without the power of the state and those who run its apparatus. He finds that without getting appropriate permissions from the proper gov't authorities, his association with like-minded individuals may, in fact, be deemed criminal. That his independent business is now subject to scrutiny and adherence to arbitrary laws by other gov't functionaries who may deem that he has broken a law that he was in ignorance of. Remember, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," except, of course, for ignorance on the part of those state agents executing it. And he finds that the information that he had to provide so that the authorities would grant his freedom of political expression is now in the hands of his social, political, business and bureaucratic enemies. Where is Rod Serling when you need him?
Except that this isn't "The Twilight Zone," this is the modern American political system. And we should find Nora to be a cautionary tale. Because the goal of the bureaucratic, authoritarian state is to reduce its "citizens" to the psychological state where they fear to do anything that has not been granted prior permission by the state's own Nosferatu. err, I mean, Nomenklatura.