“‘Yes,’ my grandmother said when the film ended. ‘Just don’t let there be another war.’
The phrase, which during Soviet times had become a kind of slogan, contained so much. Her husband, my grandfather, dying at the front; her parents, forced to evacuate Moscow despite her father’s poor health; in the midst of all this, her pregnancy and the birth of my mother. Just don’t let there be another war: a mixture of terror and hope.
We were sitting next to each other on the couch that became her cot at night. If my grandfather had survived the war, my grandmother could have had other children. Or if she’d remarried sooner than she did. If she’d had other children, they could have been here for her now, and she would have had more grandchildren, probably, than just me and Dima.
‘But you don’t get to say how your life is going to be,’ my grandmother said suddenly. And that was also true. On a whim, I took her hand in mine. For such a tiny little grandmother, she had surprisingly big hands.’”
—“How Did We Come to Know You?,” Keith Gessen