Janko Lavrin (1887-1986) was born in Krupa, Bela Krajina, Slovenia. He left Slovenia in 1908 for St Petersburg where he studied the Russian language and Russian literature, and became a publisher and writer. He served as war correspondent with the Serbian army on its retreat through Albania in 1915-16 for the newspaper 'Novoye vremya' (The New Age).
Called back to Petrograd in the summer of 1917, he broke his journey in London, where he chose to remain following the outbreak of revolution in Russia. He was appointed a lecturer in Russian at University College Nottingham in 1918 and became Professor of Slavonic Studies in the 1920-21 session. In the inter-war years, Lavrin published many books and articles on Russian and European literature. In the session 1941-42, he resigned his post at University College Nottingham to join the Editorial Board of European Broadcasts of the BBC and, during the war, he broadcast regularly to occupied Europe. In 1944-45, he returned to University College as head of the Slavonic Studies department on a part-time basis and in 1948-49, when the College became The University of Nottingham, he received an ex-officio Master of Arts. Lavrin retired from the University in 1952 but continued as a translator, writer on Russian literature, and remained active in the academic field of Slavonic Studies. He died in London on 13 August 1986.
Lavrin's principal works are: 'Tolstoy: a psycho-critical study' (London, 1922), 'Studies in European Literature' (London, 1929), 'Aspects of Modernism: from Wilde to Pirandello' (London, 1935), 'An Introduction to the Russian Novel' (New York and London, 1943), 'Dostoevsky: a study' (New York, 1943), 'Tolstoy: an approach' (London, 1948), 'From Pushkin to Mayakovsky: a study in the evolution of literature' (London, 1948), 'Nickolai Gogol' (London, 1951), and 'Groncharov' (Cambridge, 1954).
While at Nottingham, Lavrin and his wife Nora (née Fry, 1895-1985), a distinguished artist and book illustrator, made the acquaintance of Jessie Wood, née Chambers. Jessie was a member of the Chambers family of Haggs Farm, Underwood near Selston, Nottinghamshire, and a childhood friend of D.H. Lawrence. She served as the prototype for 'Miriam' in Lawrence's novel 'Sons and Lovers'. She married John R. Wood in 1915. Nora painted Jessie's portrait, and Janko taught her Russian, an interest already evident in her teens, when she and Lawrence read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky together.