Iwas born in 1958 and grew up in Moscow as the daughter of a single mother, who was a pharmacist. In my childhood, my maternal grandmother and grandfather lived with us. He was Lithuanian, and she was Jewish. My mother was their only child, as I was hers—we were two generations of single daughters.

We never lived with him—my parents were not married. My father was from a German aristocratic family in Gatchina. His parents had emigrated during the Revolution, and as the son of a baron he had a very difficult life. He organized amateur concerts, which were very common at the time, but because of his background he could never get a permanent job in Moscow. He was a Christian, and I was called after his mother, who was Ukrainian. So I am quite an ethnic mixture. But my parents never lived together.

When they met, my father was married. His wife was very ill, and he couldn’t leave her. When she died, he wanted to live with us, but my mother would not accept this. Her own situation was very difficult: she was living with me and her two parents in a single room in a communal flat. My grandparents hated him. He was twenty-nine years older than her—the same age as my grandfather—so one would expect them to be prejudiced against him. The neighbours, of course, gossiped about the whole story. So my parents never really had a satisfactory place to meet, or live together. My mother could more or less cope with this before I was born, but by the time I arrived I think she was just very tired, and decided she could not keep up the relationship amid so much uncertainty and hostility, but must devote all her energies to me.

This is a sad story. He was very much alone, and had no other children. He had two elder sisters who were both blind, whom he went to look after in Gorky. There he died in 1970, when I was twelve. Later, when I went to look for his grave, I couldn’t find it. I never knew my father when I was a child, and still know very little about his life, which is a great loss for me. I realized this when I was eighteen, and friends of his came to me and told me that before he died he had asked them to give me his letters to my mother. He wanted me to see what their love had been for seven years before I was born. When I read these letters, I was very moved—I not only felt close to him, but also that many aspects of my own character come from him.

After my grandfather died, I discovered a notebook in which he had written a short auto-biography. You can imagine how excited I was when I came upon it. But when I read it I was very disappointed—worse than that, really depressed. Because it was clear that this was not something written from the heart, but as a precaution in case he was arrested. It was a terrible document. It just detailed all the activities that would show him to be an obedient and dedicated member of the Party—his record in the Red Army, his role in the mobilization for this or that official campaign, and so on. Not one personal word. My mother told me that he had been expelled from the Party at one time, but was reinstated. He had many books at home, a lot of them from the thirties. But if their authors had later been prosecuted and condemned as enemies of the people, he would cross out their names. For example, we had the third edition of Lenin’s Collected Works at home, of 1927–29. That is where I for the first time came across criticisms of Lenin, because it contained comments from Axelrod and others on his ideas about imperialism, for instance; also objections to his polemical style against opponents. I was obviously fascinated, and looked to see who had edited the volume. The three editors were Bukharin, Skvortsov-Stepanov and Molotov—but my grandfather had carefully deleted Bukharin’s name. This is highly symbolic. It was always very difficult in my family to learn the truth about the past, and this is quite typical for my generation. There are many blank areas in my grandfather’s life.