Journalist Masha Gessen's last memory of Russia was the crowd of red-eyed relatives gathered at the airport in Moscow in 1981 to wave goodbye forever to her 14-year-old self, her brother and her parents. Unwilling to have their children grow up bearing the weight of the same anti-Semitism that they and their parents had, Masha's mother and father were emigrating to America. But Russia was Masha's home and 10 years later she returned to a changed country, and to her two grandmothers. With intelligence and humour Masha Gessen unfolds the tale of these two women: both Eastern European Jews who lived through Polish and Russian anti-Semitism, the Second World War, the Holocaust, and the Stalin years and who bore unceasing intimidation and fear in very different ways but with similar courage, resourcefulness and sheer chutzpah. As Masha traces the characters, struggles, love affairs and families of Ester, confident and reckless, and Rosalia, sensitive and responsible, the story of twentieth-century Russia and its people, the Jews, their friends and their enemies, emerges. And so does Masha Gessen's own story, itself a modern myth of exile and return.
Masha Gessen is the Russian correspondent for US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT. She has been a contributor to GRANTA and is the author of DEAD AGAIN: THE RUSSIAN INTELLIGENTSIA AFTER COMMUNISM. She lives in Moscow.