• DIARY

    100 Midnights in Paris

    Russia, 2000: It was a sleepy March morning in my third-grade class. We dragged ourselves to school in the dark in our bulky winter coats. Classes began at 8.05 – no exceptions, including on Saturdays. Russian school is known for a hardcore curriculum – Dostoyevsky is read by 14-year-olds; excerpts from classical literature at an even earlier age. We were yawning uncontrollably when our teacher, Lyudmila Ivanovna – barely keeping awake herself – requested that we open our literature books. Always the start of an adventure into another time and culture: a glimpse of immortality through the eyes of children, fresh from the realm of immortality itself. Those literary ‘excursions’…

  • DIARY

    MY NEAR-DEATH PARTY

    When I was living in Russia, I was diagnosed with a heart problem, demanding complex surgery. The path to the bus-stop from the hospital led through an old cemetery. Twilight crept over the graves. A light snow was falling.  My mother stopped, my hand firmly clutched in hers. I was 10 years old, reading her thoughts and swearing to myself not to burst into tears. Later that night, I heard her crying behind the closed door to my parents’ bedroom and made another promise to myself: the surgery would not happen. I didn’t care how. It just would not happen. Two months later, I came in for another test to…