I was born during the dry Moscow November of 1982, three days after Leonid Brezhnev (ruler of the USSR since 1964) collapsed from a stroke. My mother claimed that she’d predicted both the exact date of my birth and the fact that she was having a girl (there was no Soviet technology to tell her either of these things). She was twenty-five then, and in the process of amicably divorcing my biological father, Volodya, whom she’d married four years earlier.

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