Yvonne Bornstein,
with Mark Ribowsky,
Eleven Days of Hell
(AuthorHouse, 2005)

Yvonne Bornstein and her husband Danny were kidnapped by a band of Russian gangsters and ex-KGB villians in early 1991. They were tortured physically and emotionally for a $1.6 billion ransom (which was orders of magnitude above the liquid assets of the heavily mortgaged Australian business-couple).

Was Yvonne an innocent tourist kidnapped in Russia? No. A do-gooder helping revive post-Iron Curtain Russia? Well, no. How about a profiteer involved with shady business deals on Russia's black market? Yep, that's it. In hindsight, Yvonne admits that she and Danny were dazzled by wealth, heavily over-mortgaged on their house, gambling by paying out millions in anticipation of high (but dubiously legal) returns, and they were unwilling to wake up to the many signs of trouble in their Russo-Australian import/export business. As a reader, I appreciated her candor and lack of excuses or assignment of blame.

Even shady entrepreneurs in economically ravaged countries don't deserve to be tortured for an insanely high ransom. Yvonne's book, Eleven Days of Hell: My True Story of Kidnapping, Terror, Torture & Historic FBI & KGB Rescue, is the story of her entire life, from her childhood to her early troubled relationships before meeting husband Danny. Yvonne lays out the events that unraveled and led south to the kidnapping. In captivity, Yvonne and Danny leveraged one another's strengths, plotting to get messages out to the world and to present the right "face" to their kidnappers. The couple only survived because of their union. When Yvonne was sexually assaulted, she knew she had to hide it during the captivity, to prevent her husband from violently attacking their tormentors.

Bornstein bills her memoir as evidence of al-Qaeda alive and well in early 1990s Russia. This is certainly a good advertisement in the post-9/11 world, but it is a shaky claim at best. Sure, there is evidence of al-Qaeda, but don't pick this up expecting some all-conclusive smoking gun expose on Afghan terrorism.

Yvonne is a survivor and an inspiration to women everywhere. She dug up a lot of information to provide context to her own personal (and painful) narrative. Thanks for sharing your story, Ms. Bornstein!

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
24 June 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.