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The Great Patriotic War and Maria Mitrofanova

The Great Patriotic War and Maria Mitrofanova
with Jokull Gislason 

When I was young I was raised in Newcastle upon Tyne in England. From the age of 4 I would save my pocket money to buy toy soldiers and I remember that I favoured Britains Deetail. I confess that I liked the Germans better because they had nicer uniforms. I would say that is where my interest in war started and it has followed me since. 

It was in 2005 that I was introduced to Flames of War and the game appealed to me from the start. I had experience in other miniature games and that helped. With Flames of War I found the game more tactical and it connected to my historical interests which to me was important. Soon afterwards I became very involved in the game and it dawned on me that my historical understanding also improved.

I prefer to play historically based scenarios, with correct forces for a certain front. This requires research and helps understand the battles. So in my opinion the better I knew the history the more fun I had in my games and by playing the game I understood history a little better. I was also lucky enough to be a playtester with the Market Garden Firestorm game, which led to me designing six other Firestorm Campaigns. I really enjoyed that, breaking down a campaign, understanding what happened and recreating it as a game.

Find Jökul’s Firestorm Campaigns here...

It was when I turned 40 I wanted to do something big for and with my Flames of War community. I contacted Reykjavík City Museum and arranged to play a game in their World War 2 exhibition.

The Crumbling - A Total War Battle & Birthday Celebration...

It was so successful that the following year I decided to repeat the experience and this time I joined with the Icelandic-Russian cultural society. In return I held an open lecture on the war on the Eastern Front.

Minsk Offensive Part One: Operation Bagration, June-July 1944....

The Great Patriotic War and Maria Mitrofanova

Importantly a representative from the Russian Embassy was present and the following years I was invited to take part in their VE Day celebrations. In 2014 I offered to set up a table using Flames of War miniatures in their reception hall. This was done and this led to me meeting Maria Mitrofanova a veteran of the Eastern Front. 

Victory In Europe Day...

I found it fascinating to meet a veteran who was living in Iceland and I asked to interview Maria. At the start she didn’t want to give an interview as she felt that she hadn’t done anything important. Eventually I did get to visit her. She only speaks Russian so I had to have an interpreter with me. During our first meeting it was clear that Maria had lived an interesting life and had good stories to tell. In the end we had eight sessions. Her family was very thankful and they told me that they too were hearing many of these stories for the first time. During this time we formed a friendship and she trusted me with her photographs so I could make copies.

The Great Patriotic War and Maria Mitrofanova

By then I had material that was substantial yet still not enough for a book. So I sat down and I wrote the history of the Eastern Front. I started from the end of World War 1, since Maria is born in 1925 and the formation of the Soviet Union affected her and her family. From there I covered the fighting on the Eastern Front. The majority of the book is the larger history of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Front. The book is broken down into major chapters and at the end of each we get to see Maria and how her life was affected by these major historical events. It was clear I had a book in the making. 

The Great Patriotic War and Maria Mitrofanova

The Great Patriotic War and Maria Mitrofanova

I thought it was a fairly good first draft and I went to look for a publisher. That took almost a year, with waiting periods and rejections. Eventually I found a publisher that saw potential in this work and in particular in Maria and her story. Once we had signed a contract I was assigned an editor and the draft was greatly improved upon. It was more work for me in a good way. I could see the quality improving. This is my first book and I could use the help. I wanted the book to be published as soon as possible because it was important to me that Maria would get a copy. I also wanted the book to be of a good quality and luckily my ideas and the publishers were similar.

The Great Patriotic War and Maria Mitrofanova

Two weeks ago my book got published and with a publishing house behind me it is now available in all bookstores in Iceland. It is written in Icelandic so it is sadly of little use to many of you reading this. Who knows, maybe it will be translated into other languages later. It has received attention from the media and Maria and I even went on an interview with the major book review television program in Iceland and this has done good things for the book and its circulation. 

I confess that writing a book is a lot of work. The best way is to use full days to write as it is hard to get into a good flow unless you have a lot of time for your session. Writing after a full day’s work and family time isn’t productive. Sacrifices need to be made to write a book. It can also be a lot of fun and personal fulfilment to see a book taking shape and then thankfulness and pride at the end. 

Flames of War deserves part of that thankfulness as the game played a large part in the events that led Maria and me together.

~Jokull 


Last Updated On Thursday, December 14, 2017 by Luke at Battlefront