science journalist & editor



Go back to the cottage in Kiev

with its peasant stove and earthen


floor, handful

of chickens, climbing


rose bushes, apple trees, and me

learning to write my name. “A”


is such an elegant letter. When

I tell you about my life, 1928


is still possible.





There is no getting around the Cheka.


They wore black boots.


The buttons on their jackets scattered

the light.


They carried rifles, shouted

in Russian. I was old enough


to know what they wanted, to refuse.


When this happened, they

created the Famine.


But you haven’t heard





of the Famine? What goes missing


from textbooks: that the Soviets robbed us

of our grain, boarded up


our train stations. The Cheka

killed my father, my brother

joined the collective, even this


wasn’t enough. We stole rotten

potatoes, put them in a pot,


pumped water until the starch rose

to the surface. We lived on

the foam, just that.


You could, too.





I wasn’t strong. I did not hope.


I remember my brother

coming home from the fields

with something in his hands—a dead


sparrow for me, a little

piece of luck.