February 4–11, 1945. Yalta, a resort town on the Crimean Peninsula, Soviet Union. The Big Three are posing for a camera. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin. All smiling. Stalin, his head is half a turn away from the other two. A shrewd smirk is hiding behind his walrus mustache. He seems to be pleased. Why wouldn’t he be? The Big Three signed the agreement that will shape the fate of Europe and . . .
In 1941, Anna is sixteen, almost an adult yet still a child, craving independence and keen to become an operetta actress. Her rosy aspirations are disrupted by the war. When Krasnodar is taken by the Wehrmacht, she is one of the populace who are ordered to repair roads for the occupants’ trucks and cars and, in fall, to toil in the fields for the sake of sending the harvest to the enemy’s land. A dire event coerces her to go to Germany where she is auctioned as a slave worker.
Born in Berlin into an émigré Cossack family, young Zakhary is more interested in books and archeology than in the war that is raging through Europe, even less in the cause of his parents and their friends, which is to overthrow the Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union and revert to Imperial Russia. He just doesn’t want to be a part of it. That is, until he finds himself among the Cossacks fighting alongside the Germans against the Allies.
In Italy, he meets Marishka, a young woman of Cossack heritage who fled the Soviet Union with other anti-Soviet Cossacks and departing German troops under the push of the Red Army. They fall in love and marry. And then, on June 1, 1945, Lienz happened.
After the war, a ghastly fate propels each of them to the merciless land where skies are leaden gray, frosts plunge below -60°C in winter, and the woods are impenetrable and so vast, there is no escape from there.
Anna and Zakhary carry with them their personal wounds, at the same time haunted by unbearable guilt, which they can’t undo or fix. In 1955, fate brings them together on an isolated peninsula of the Ob River, connected to one another in inextricably entangled ways they do not yet realize. More than a decade later, can they bury the cruel past and build a future for themselves in the country without Stalin but sealed behind the Iron Curtain?
This is their story, relived in one day.
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