At the end of the Fontana paperback version of the White Guard I am reading there is an epilogue in the form of an article by Victor Nekrasov, written for a Moscow literary journal in 1967, who sets out to find the locations described in the book and eventually finds the house of the Turbins at 13 St Andrews Hill and manages to visit the people living there. In a piece, which is saved from just being simple hero worship because of its interest, he discovers that the Bulgakov family lived in the house and most of the content of the book is autobiographical.
The most interesting things he discovers are that as a consequence of describing the owner of the flat downstairs as a money hoarder the authorities thought there might be some truth in it and made his life difficult. That he did have a brother Nikolai and he died in exile in Paris. But the interesting thing that this topographer cannot explain is the most important two streets in the book – where the Turbins live and where the woman who saves Alexei lives – have their names changed while everything else stays the same.
The final thing that you have to remember is that the book followed a play The Days of the Turbins, which Stalin liked so much he saw 15 times and when Bulgakov found the censorship and life in Russia so hard he pleaded to be allowed to go into exile it was Stalin who telephoned him and made him stay – not someone you could really argue with.
“When you come to Kiev I invite you to walk down the steep slope of St Andrews’s Hill to No. 13, to glance into the backyard (be sure to notice the steps on the left, under the verandah, for it was just there that a shiver ran down poor Vasilisa’s belly when he caught sight of Yavdokha, the beautiful milkmaid), and then to go uphill, cross the ‘mediaeval’ courtyard of Richard the Lionheart’s Castle, and to go up on to the hilltop, sit down on the edge of it, light a cigarette if you like, and admire the City which, even though he never came back to it, Bulgakov loved so much.”