Dear Reader, as you know for the last 4 years I have been writing a biography of Angelica Balabanoff. So who is Angelica and why did I want to write about her? Born in 1878 in a dazzlingly rich family in Chernigov, Angelica broke ties with her parents and left for Europe, to become one of the leading female socialists of the European labor movement at the beginning of the 20th century. She was famous in Italy for “discovering” Mussolini, when he was an unknown socialist, and being the first person who “polished and educated” the future Il Duce. Only 5 feet tall, plum and unattractive, she was rumored to be a lover of Mussolini, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. For a long time, it was thought that Mussolini’s eldest daughter Edda was the daughter of Angelica. Angelica returned to Russia at the beginning of the October Revolution. Highly respected within the European socialist movement, her mere presence in Russia during the Revolution served as real publicity for what was happening in the country.
After becoming one of the few women to occupy high-ranking positions within the all-male Bolshevik government, Angelica fled Russia, disagreeing with Lenin’s politics. She was accused by European and American secret services of promoting communist propaganda and by the Soviets of becoming a traitor. A brilliant translator, she spoke thirteen languages. An excellent speaker, she gathered crowds of men and women, addressing the most daring subjects at the time when women stayed at home. A constant traveler, she lived all her life in small student-like rooms, moving on average every two years, going to places where her presence and work for the cause could help the poor and the oppressed, carrying with her two suite-cases with documents she considered important. Angelica died in Rome at the age of 96, concluding her 65-year-long career by helping Giuseppe Saragat to become a President of Italy.
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