XIV Moscow, Russia – Budapest, Hungary, 1990

Rita sits behind the kitchen table; Viktoria is making us blinis with sour cream and caviar from a can. Outside hums the Prospect Mira, a main road into central Moscow.

Zsuzsa shares a flat with me in Budapest. She speaks only Hungarian and my Hungarian is sufficient only for a very simple dialogue, but we talk about everything using our dictionaries and hands.

Viktoria is a classic Moscovite girl, modest, hardworking and very self-conscious. I have known her since her childhood; their summer place was next to ours on the west coast of Estonia. Rita has just arrived – ironically – from Vladivistok. Her clothing screams for attention.

In the evenings I sit alone with Zsuzsa in the kitchen. She is very beautiful, both inside and out. She has a boyfriend in a tiny town, but has accepted an offer from an elderly and rich Hungarian man who lives in Vienna to be a companion to him and his friends and also to do some housework, perhaps.

Rita has come to Moscow to find a husband. She ran away from Vladivostok and bought a ticket to Moscow at the airport leaving her parents and a boyfriend. She is staying at Viktoria’s. In the mornings she watches a special TV show for women who have come to Moscow to find a husband. In the hours-long program tips are given for hitting on a man, on the right make up, and which bars are the coolest at the moment. The TV credits roll to the images of tanks and Rita heads for the streets. The streets are full of women walking in ethereal dresses.

Zsuzsa weeps to me about missing her boyfriend and what she plans to do with her money later. She shows me photos of both men; she does not like the old Hungarian man in Vienna; then, covering her boyfriend’s photo, leaving only the eyes visible, she gasps, so that I understand what she wants to burst out: ”Szemét!” – ”His eyes!”

I try to talk sense to her, but she cannot understand it. Her head is full of her love, she almost trembles, like a new leaf, at how much good she can do for her love.

When I leave for Moscow Airport, Rita gives me a powerful hug and does not want to let me to leave. I sense a deep sorrow from within her body.

I have never spoken about either of these women to Sofi, but when I read Purge for the first time, I was amazed at how clearly I saw both these girls in Zara.

A couple of months later I receive a postcard from Zsuzsa. It was stamped in Graz. She asks me if I could rescue her, but her handwriting was very bad and it didn’t say where she was. 

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