Many thanks to Michael Simms at Vox Populi for selecting this story for republication. (To read the story, click the link above.) I’m pretty sure I started writing it in 1976, in one of those headlong panics the night before a paper or story is due. I would have been 16, and I recall clearly that my English teacher, Vincent D’Amico, had assigned us an exercise in which we were to focus on color and sound to set the mood. I was listening to Al Stewart singing “The Roads to Moscow,” and I saw snow. I heard wind.
I got an A on that story, and my mom saved it. That’s the only way I was able to resurrect it in grad school after another of those “I have nothing to workshop” moments. I workshopped it pretty thoroughly and the rewrite came with good comments from my fellow writers in workshop. I did a lot of research about the time period as it adjoined research I was doing about Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977). He’s a fascinating fellow. He had the brilliant mind of a chess master. He was a lepidopterist, and he really was a Russian nobleman in exile! He wrote nine novels in Russian while living in Germany when his family left Russia after the February Revolution in 1917.
In any case, today, right now, the Ukraine is being invaded by Russia. We are sick at heart that such a thing can happen at one politician’s whim. This story that I wrote is designed in no way to imply that I side with the protagonist, who was a Russian spy. I read a lot of history around that time. I looked at a lot of photos. My heart has always been with the Ukrainian people.