There were three of us in that room and a half of ours: my father, my mother, and I. A family, a typical Russian family of the time. The time was after the war, and very few people could afford more than one child. Some of them couldn’t even afford to have the father alive or present: great terror and war took their toll in big cities, in my hometown especially. So we should have considered ourselves lucky, especially since we were Jews. All three of us survived the war (and I say «all three» because I, too, was born before it, in 1940); my parents, however, survived the thirties also.
They took everything as a matter of course: the system, their powerlessness, their poverty, their wayward son. They simply tried to make the best of everything: to keep food on the table—and whatever that food was, to turn it into morsels; to make ends meet—and although we always lived from payday to payday, to stash away a few rubles for the kid’s movies, museum trips, books, dainties. What dishes, utensils, clothes, linen we had were always clean, polished, ironed, patched, starched. The tablecloth was always spotless and crisp, the lampshade above it dusted, the parquet shining and swept.