Postgraduate Studies in Motherhood - Book Review


Postgraduate Studies in Motherhood

Author: Helen Trepelkov
Genre: Non Fiction - Memoir
Date Published: August 9, 2018
ISBN-10: 168433084X
ISBN-13: 9781684330843


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Book Review of :  Postgraduate Studies in Motherhood


Postgraduate Studies in Motherhood by Helen Trepelkov is her autobiography, a travelogue and an epistle to other women on being a mother.  Helen was the daughter of a Soviet diplomat and not surprisingly became the wife of a man who followed in her father’s footsteps.  As a 22-year-old young woman, she married a young Russian who was given a job in the big city of New York, New York.   

When she and her husband,   Alex Trepelkov, came to New York, she saw it as an incredibly exciting event. The couple found an apartment and Helen took up managing the household while she searched for a job. Soon she was offered a job at the United Nation’s library and readily accepted it. Before she could start her new job, however, she discovered she was pregnant.  Her pregnancy was not something she saw as an interference in her life; in fact, she said, “I was so mesmerized and so enchanted by the idea of having a child that the thought of choosing work over having a baby had never entered my mind.”

She didn’t take the job at the United Nations, and just a few months later she gave birth to her first child Lydia. A couple of years later she would give birth to her second daughter, Nathalie.

Helen mentally vacillated about her commitment of being a full-time mother at the expense of ending her studies and any career outside of the home. She was a very educated woman who had been valedictorian in high school, graduating summa cum laude from arguably the most prestigious higher education school in Russia, the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, MGIMO for short. She was also fluent in French, English and her native language Russian. But that nagging question was put to rest soon after Lydia’s birth when Helen realized how badly her daughter expressed her need for her mother.

Helen doesn’t claim that she knows all the answers to child rearing, in fact, she states, “Child-raising looked like a giant blank canvas to work on, presenting huge creative opportunities, but practically no guidelines. The enormity of the task at hand scared and attracted me at the same time. I was very excited to know this tiny new human being, but I was also acutely aware that this baby needed me and was fully dependent on me. More than anything, I was afraid to let her down. Motherhood felt like a real-life ethics exam.”

This is a book that celebrates the power and value of women and their sacred journey into motherhood.  Helen’s book is filled with rich informational and inspirational observations that I think will spiritually touch many women. Postgraduate Studies in Motherhood makes it clear that being a mother is the very essence of femininity. Helen’s powerful affirmations on motherhood teach women to listen to their heart and trust their feelings as their deepest truth.  Her book is a way to help other women to come together with the ups and downs, joys and struggles of motherhood. She makes it clear that motherhood is not for the faint of heart. Helen’s narrative on motherhood is a beautiful and encouraging book written for an imperfect, trying-her-best mom just like you.

Her story includes vignettes of the war-torn years in Russia that were told to her by her father. He had been drawn into the World War II as a teenager and was assigned to a tank brigade that fought against the German Tigers and Panthers tanks. During that period there was no respite from war as Helen eloquently stated in her book, “In order to live, they had to face and defeat death. There was no way back and no side doors. War, it seems, does not allow for any shades of gray. It’s either stark white or pitch-black.”

She recounts some very moving stories about the war; one of which was about the Majdanek concentration camp. She wrote, “More painful was the chilling sight of the empty Majdanek concentration camp near Lublin, Poland, amid the peaceful silence and the light caressing breeze of a nice summer day. The Soviet troops had just liberated its prisoners. Piles of corpses and neatly packed bags with human hair were everywhere.”

Helen’s narrative delves into life in Russia. She talks about her mother, father, grandfather, grandmother and other relatives. She talks about the customs, the wars, political struggles, the changes experienced after the collapse of the Soviet Union and she takes you to the cities and towns that she frequented as a child and as an adult in her almost yearly visits back to Russia. In her picaresque story, Helen reaches beyond the mundane to show us Russian life;  their surprising warmth, resilience, generosity, humor, and hardy endurance of the average people of Russia. Helen is a storyteller with a wonderful human touch. She talks of a Russia tested by tragedy and war as she describes the real life in Moscow and other Russian cities.

Helen was a product of a generation that stood up to tyranny in its many permutations, and it made her strong, resourceful and appreciative of family. 

About Helen Trepelkov


Helen Trepelkov graduated summa cum laude with a master's degree in International Economic Relations from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, dubbed the 'Harvard of Russia' by Henry Kissinger. Shortly after, she followed her husband to New York City and unexpectedly became a stay-at-home mother. Helen still lives in New York City with her husband and is now a stay-at-home grandmother, helping her two daughters, both graduates of Georgetown University, raise their children.


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