The Self Portrait of a Military Man: The Autobiography of Boris Héroys


Every one of us lives life differently. Some may take the easy road, but some are compelled to take the high road. Whatever the choice one may have, it reflects greatly on their personality and makes for an interesting journey through life. That being said, the most beautiful way to present a narrative of one's travels is through an autobiography, and through John Elverson's narration, the story of a man who stood by his principles is presented to the world to inspire and show the history of a man who has lived through life through a different lens.


Released in 2020, To Serve the Russian Empire: The Autobiography of Boris Héroys by John Elverson tells the tale of a man's journey through life. Schooled at a prestigious boarding school in St. Petersburg, Boris was chosen as one of the two-chamber pages to Princess Alix at her wedding to Tsar Nicholas II. He was commissioned into the elite Egersky Life Guards Regiment and was soon living the regimental life. Life was indeed fashionable in St. Petersburg, and he was performing his duty at his best. In 1901, he attended the General Staff Academy and graduated in 1904 with the General Leontiev Prize for having the best thesis strategy. The scene changes to the Far East, where the young Boris is a junior staff officer who participated in the war against Japan. His destiny is irrevocably changed with the outbreak of the First World War. He describes his career against the backdrop of Russia’s fortunes, from the successful Galician campaign in what is now Ukraine through to the disastrous retreat and eventual stalemate that led to the Bolshevik Revolution. He is a man caught in the middle of a crossfire who lived to tell the tale.


The author, John Elverson, is the child of a British Army officer. He was born in Kenya during the final years of British rule. Kenya was originally part of the Sultan of Zanzibar’s empire, which was based on slavery and ivory. Zanzibar became a very prosperous port due to British trade and the British had stopped the Zanzibar slave. Unfortunately, the Germans annexed the Sultan’s empire on the mainland from the Rufiji River in the South to Somalia in the North and the British had to persuade the Germans to divide this between German and British spheres of influence that then became protectorates. Elverson then attended Cheltenham College and Reading University, where he finished a bachelor's degree in agriculture. Afterward, he took a position in the Commonwealth Development Corporation on their cattle ranch in Botswana's Kalahari Desert and joined a London software company wherein he developed business applications. His success allowed him to set up his own software company until he joined GE Caledonian, the Scottish arm of GE aircraft engines. Elverson is now retired and living in Scotland, where he makes stoneware and porcelain pots, all while researching his family history.


His book is a historical retelling of one man's life, but readers will see that it is more than just that as they are plunged into the world of the Russian empire. The scenery is a reliving of what happened then through the eyes of Boris Héroys. With such a powerful narrative, Elverson brings to life a character struggling to become the man he is and how he's successfully overcome the challenges that the universe has put him through. After all, even though Boris' life was fascinating, much of his history is unknown to many. A talented painter and a soldier, his tombstone even reads: "Soldier and Artist." Truly a person who is one of a kind, his contributions to revolutionary activities will astound you.


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