Love amid the Ruins is based on personal experiences of the author. I spent the last year of the Soviet Union (September 1990 to August 1991) in that country, and many of the events in the novel were personal experiences (not, unfortunately, the love story!).
Travis Siganoff is an Australian whose marriage has broken down. He has been corresponding for some time in Esperanto with Marina, a woman living in Kiev. Partly to meet Marina, partly from curiosity about the Soviet Union, Travis decides to give up his job in Australia and go to Kiev.
The meeting with Marina is a disappointment, but it leads to other things. Travis gets a job teaching English in Kiev, and does a lot of travel to various Esperanto groups in Ukraine on weekends (partly to escape the symptoms of radiation sickness he has felt in Kiev – Chernobyl is only 80 km away). From his students he gains the impression that there is almost no support for Mikhail Gorbachov and the Soviet Union (some of them are radical Ukrainian patriots). The contempt for Gorbachov, so different from that man’s “favourite politician” status in the West, surprises Travis.
But the grim struggle of daily life, the lack of goods and services, make Travis understand why everybody is thinking something must change. From the English-language Moscow News he is vaguely aware of the struggles going on behind the scenes. Can Gorbachov steer a path between those who want to preserve the Soviet Union – and their privileges – at all costs, and those who think the best way would be the disintegration of the Union and the introduction of the market economy. That of course is the crisis that will in fact destroy the USSR.
From Kiev Travis goes to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where he falls in love with a local woman named Virve, the daughter of a brave but fanatical Estonian patriot who has paid a heavy price for her anti-Soviet activities. Virve loves her mother but cannot support her anti-Russian sentiments. (These characters are based on persons I met there). Many obstacles have to be overcome before Travis and Virve can come together. Their love triumphs at the same time as the USSR collapses in ruins.