Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 642
Helen Dunmore's The Betrayal takes place in post-World War II Leningrad and is the sequel to her novel The Siege, which follows Andrei and Anna Mikhailovich through their horrendous experiences in Leningrad's 900-day siege.
In Chapter 1 of The Betrayal, Dunmore introduces Dr. Andrei Mikhailovich, who is once again one of her main characters. Andrei is a renowned diagnostician, especially in regards to pediatric medicine, and as the chapter opens, he observes his colleague's nervousness. Andrei immediately begins to analyze what could be the cause of Dr. Russov's profuse sweating. As Russov approaches Andrei, he senses his fear and realizes that Russov is not physically ill, but rather that he is extremely anxious about something. Before Andrei has time to determine the cause of his colleague's anxiety, Russov asks him to accompany him outside for a breath of fresh air. When the men reach the courtyard and are away from prying ears, Russov proceeds to tell Andrei about a ten-year-old patient who was admitted the previous night. At first, Russov tries to pretend that he is asking for Andrei's advice because he respects Andrei's opinion, but Andrei is not to be swayed by his colleague's pandering. Many times in the past, Russov had criticized Andrei's methods and reprimanded him for spending too much time with his patients. Andrei knows that his fellow doctor is complimenting him only because he needs something. Russov finally admits that it is not necessarily the patient's health issues that have him most concerned: it is the patient's last name. He is the only child of Volkov, a feared leader in the Soviet Union's Ministry of Security. Volkov's name alone strikes fear in those who hear it, and Andrei recognizes that Russov is trying to pass on the case to him. Hence, if anything goes wrong, Volkov's revenge will be directed toward Andrei. When Russov realizes that Andrei is not succumbing to his flattery, he then attempts to appeal to Andrei's compassionate nature. He tells Andrei that he is almost certain that the boy is suffering from juvenile arthritis (Andrei's speciality) but that he has not done any tests to corroborate his suspicions. He claims that he wants what is best for the child and pleads with Andrei to help him.
However, Andrei is not naive. After surviving the siege and learning how to remain inconspicuous in the "new" overbearing political culture, Andrei is not about to bring attention to himself or possible harm to his wife. He refuses to promise Russov anything, and instead excuses himself for an appointment with a patient. After Andrei returns inside and treats his patient, a nurse named Lena approaches him. Lena saw Andrei and Russov talking and warns Andrei against taking the Volkov case. She informs Andrei that Russov knows more than he is admitting to. Even more troubling is the news that Russov lied about not having tests done; Lena says that Russov ordered X-rays for the boy the night before and has not shown them to anyone. Andrei considers the possibility that Russov has seen something troubling on the X-rays, something that makes him want to wash his hands of the case. Lena reminds Andrei that he has responsibilities at home and asks him to promise that he will call in sick the next day. When she suggests this, Andrei ponders what a day would be like to have as his own with Anna. Kolya, who lives with Anna and Andrei, will be in school, and the couple could do whatever they want. As pleasant as a day off sounds, Andrei's thoughts return to the present, and he tells Lena that he will consider calling in. But, as a caring doctor, his thoughts begin to focus on the innocent boy in his hospital who is ill but whose name is more dangerous than any physical disease that he might possess.
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As Andrei ponders what to do in regards to the Volkov case, his wife Anna works tirelessly at one of the many State-sponsored nursery schools. In addition to teaching primary-age children, Anna has gained the necessary qualifications to be a child nutritionist. As such, she is responsible for keeping track of the children's physical growth, and her supervisor, Larissa Morozona, has pressured her into additionally keeping up with averages and other statistics.
As Anna tries to finish up for the day, her coworker, Irina, enters the office and they discuss their various responsibilities and their boss. Anna admires her boss's tenacity and ambition, but both women are wary of Larissa Morozona's loyalty, so they carefully guard their words. Their conversation soon turns to the dress that Anna is making for the hospital ball and Irina, who is single, lives vicariously through Anna as she describes the fabric and style of the gown. Anna, a generous and thoughtful friend, promises to allow Irina to wear the dress after she has attended the ball.
As Anna and Irina talk, Anna's mind wanders to the origin of the beautiful green fabric that she has chosen for her dress. During the siege, Anna's father Mikhail and his mistress Marina lived with her and Andrei. Mikhail spent most of his last days in hiding because of his reputation as a controversial writer. He died of starvation and hypothermia during the siege, and Marina soon followed him. Anna's only inheritance from her father are his books and Marina's treasured leather chest which she brought with her from Moscow. The chest contained the green fabric for Anna's dress, some beautiful red silk that Anna's knew was too flashy to use, and Marina's slippers. Anna sold the silk to buy clothing for Kolya and has sentimentally preserved the slippers.
Just as Anna's mind returns to the present and she and Irina finish their conversation, their supervisor enters the office. Irina, who is intimidated by Morozona, quickly excuses herself, and Morozona begins to discuss Anna's potential with her. She pressures Anna to use her natural mathematical ability to pursue more education, but Anna tries to say as little as possible other than that she cannot pursue a degree full-time because of her domestic responsibilities with Andrei and Kolya. However, the real reason is that if she applies for university classes, she has to divulge too much personal information, and this would draw attention to who her father was and possibly endanger her and Kolya. Morozona subtly threatens Anna that workers who do not work to their full potential are not looked upon favorably by the State. She ends the conversation by trying to reassure Anna that that is not how she views her and that she has been watching her so closely because she realizes how gifted Anna actually is.
When Morozona leaves Anna's office, she sighs quietly, and her mind returns to the horrific days of the siege when she had to watch her father and Marina die. They could not be buried during that harsh Russian winter; so their corpses remained in a room of their apartment for weeks. Anna's thoughts shed more light on her and Andrei's relationship with Kolya. Most who meet them believe that Kolya is their son, and Andrei and Anna allow them to think that way because it is safer for everyone involved. Kolya originally believed that Anna had been married to his father who was wounded and killed during the war, and that she had married Andrei afterward, but Kolya is actually Anna's half-brother, the offspring of her father and Marina's relationship. While Anna feels the obligation to raise and protect her brother, he has begun to worry her and Andrei as he reaches his teenage years. He is no longer satisfied with the stories they told him about his father and pressures Anna for more information. As the "son" of a doctor, Kolya enjoys a relatively privileged life. He does not know what true hunger is or what it means to live with dozens of others in one room without running water and heat. Kolya does the bare minimum in school and mocks her and Andrei's interest in books. Recently, she has argued with Kolya about his drinking and his general recklessness. Another problem area between the siblings stems from Anna's arrangement for Kolya to go to the countryside with his friend on the night of the ball. She believes that the camping experience will be good for Kolya and she wants just one night alone with Andrei. Even though Kolya originally agreed to the arrangement, lately he had been pressuring her to let him stay in the city. While Anna normally has difficulty telling him no, this is one decision that she will not change: she and Andrei have endured a great deal in their marriage and deserve one night to themselves.
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When Andrei arrives home, he finds Anna there by herself—a rare occasion. Kolya is out with friends, so Andrei plans on enjoying the evening alone with his wife despite Volkov's shadow hovering over him. He notices how much bigger the apartment seems without Kolya there but does not regret helping Anna raise her brother. He ponders for a moment his and Anna's infertility but knows that Anna will hear nothing of medical tests. The one time he broached the subject with her, she became angry and told him that he was thinking of her as a machine that needed to be fixed.
Andrei's thoughts return to the present, and he almost cannot bear to tell Anna about his perplexing situation. He decides to share a quiet dinner with her first. As the couple talks over their spartan meal, Anna tells Andrei about her supervisor's suggestion that she take math and statistics classes. Andrei can certainly empathize with Anna, because he, too, feels the same pressure to serve on committees instead of focusing on his individual patients' treatment.
After dinner, Andrei confesses to Anna that his hospital has admitted Volkov's son as a patient. Anna, whose father lived in constant fear of Stalin's regime, trembles as if she has been electrocuted. When Andrei tells her of his colleague Russov's suspicious behavior, Anna becomes more worried, especially when Andrei confesses that Russov had taken X-rays and then had either hidden or destroyed them. Recognizing his wife's increasing anxiety, Andrei suggests that they take a walk to calm their nerves.
Later that evening as Andrei and Anna lie awake in bed, they discuss the Volkov problem. Anna agrees with Lena, the nurse who suggested that Andrei call in sick, but Andrei knows that that is not a permanent solution. He also knows Russov well enough to realize that he has probably already given his name to Volkov as the doctor who would be taking over the boy's case. Anna then suggests that she, Andrei, and Kolya flee to the dacha (the country) and stay with Andrei's uncle. Andrei argues that Kolya would suffer and that neither he nor Anna would have anything to do there. He tries to convince Anna that he must treat the boy—especially from a humanitarian standpoint—and that they both are overreacting to the situation. Anna, too tired to object, takes comfort in Andrei's arms as they make love and then drift off to sleep.
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As Andrei walks to work the morning after his conversation with Anna, he tries to convince himself that he is doing the right thing by treating Volkov's son; after all, he is a sick boy who desperately needs help. When Andrei arrives at the hospital and approaches the Volkov boy's room, he cannot help but notice the looming policeman from the Ministry of State Security. The police officer asks for Andrei's papers, and Andrei explains that he is the doctor who has been called in to look at the boy. He presents his papers, however, when the "giant" simply responds with "Your papers."
Andrei enters the room and notices the boy, Gorya, lying in the hospital bed with a cage over his right leg. Near his bedside, the boy's mother stands up and begins to tell Andrei about the pain her son has endured. Andrei can barely get a word in but finally manages to introduce himself. Mrs. Volkov scrutinizes Andrei, and then her sense of decorum returns, and she gives him her name. Andrei needs to examine the boy without his mother speaking for him; so he suggests that she go get some coffee or tea and relax. He uses just enough flattery about her tireless devotion to her son, and she soon acquiesces.
As Andrei begins his examination, he tries to connect with the young boy. He notices the boy's toy trains and tells him that his father used to work on trains in Siberia. The boy tries to pretend that he is uninterested, but Andrei soon breaks through. When he asks Gorya if he can remember when his leg began hurting, the boy tells him that he believes the pain is from a friend's tennis racket whack. When Andrei pulls back the sheet and cage to examine Gorya's leg, he sees a red, swollen area just below his knee. Andrei immediately begins to diagnose silently while he continues to ask Gorya questions. Gorya explains that his leg has actually been red and swollen for a while, but he is afraid to limp in front of his father, lest he appear weak. Andrei has to order blood tests and X-rays since Russov will not even admit that he performed tests on the boy. A little later, as Andrei studies the X-rays, he sees exactly what he had feared—a tumor growing deep in the boy's leg bone. He and Sofya, the technician, agree that the tumor looks like an osteosarcoma (an aggressive cancerous tumor); he cannot be sure, however, until a biopsy is performed.
When Andrei returns home later that day, he can hear Kolya's piano playing from outside the apartment and dreads having to tell Kolya to keep down the noise because their obnoxious neighbors will file a complaint against them. Ever diplomatic, Andrei convinces Kolya to play a quiet piece by Mozart, and as he relaxes to the sound of Kolya's playing, he ponders his next option in regards to Volkov's son.
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After Andrei examines Gorya, he consults Dr. Brodskaya whom he greatly respects for her surgical skills. She seems unfazed when Andrei tells her that Gorya is Volkov's son and agrees to talk to the family. Though he already knows the answer, Andrei asks her if there is any chance that the tumor is benign, and she replies that she doubts that.
Later that night, Brodskaya stops by Andrei's office and informs him that it is impossible for her to treat the boy satisfactorily. As the surgeon explains further, Andrei realizes that he will be forced to take charge of the case. Brodskaya did her best to explain the nature of Gorya's tumor, but the Volkovs insist on Andrei treating their child. Brodskaya believes that their rejection of her is partly due to her name: she's Jewish, and the post-war attitude of most Russians has not improved toward anyone of Jewish descent. She warns Andrei that Volkov has surely already checked his personnel files but also promises to perform the biopsy and surgical removal of the tumor if Andrei is able to convince the Volkovs that she is the best physician for the case.
When Andrei reluctantly returns to Gorya's room, Mr. and Mrs. Volkov are both there; Volkov insists that they go elsewhere to talk. Andrei takes him to a secretary's office which has emptied for the day, and Volkov immediately takes charge of the conversation. He tells Andrei that he has read his file and that he is impressed with Andrei's history of success with difficult diagnoses. He asks Andrei if his son's case is a difficult diagnosis, and Andrei begins to explain the nature of the tumor to him. Even though Volkov realizes that Andrei is not a surgeon, he still asks him why an experienced doctor like Andrei "knows nothing" about tumors, at least not enough to perform the surgery himself. Andrei explains the normal process to Volkov, which would include his examination of the patient, ordering tests, and most likely referring him to the best surgeon available. Undeterred by Andrei's explanation, Volkov points out that during the war years Andrei would have had to take any case that came to him. Andrei admits that Volkov is correct but argues that hospital protocol has changed since the end of the war. Volkov begins to relent but confesses to Andrei that his son likes Andrei and that he himself feels a bond with Andrei because they are both from Siberia. Andrei, knowing that this battle was lost to him before it began, agrees to supervise Gorya's treatment as long as other "experts" perform the operation. Andrei even has to argue about Brodskaya's worth as a surgeon because Volkov doesn't "like the look" of her. Nonetheless, Andrei presses him further by saying that if it were his son, he would want Brodskaya to perform the operation; so the stoic Volkov finally agrees as long as Andrei will handle Gorya's case. Andrei warns him that there is a strong possibility that Gorya is very ill, and Volkov slams his hands down on the desk and shows his first normal paternal reaction. He simply cannot believe that with his power and influence, he can do nothing to protect his son from a tumor.
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As Andrei carefully handles the Volkov case at the hospital, Anna works tirelessly on her dress for the hospital ball. A wealthier friend, Julia, has loaned her a sewing machine for a week, so Anna has to finish the dress in that time period. As she sews, she reflects on her relationship with Julia. They had grown up together as little girls, and Julia had worshipped Anna's father because of his storytelling skills. When Julia's mother abandoned the family, Anna thought that Julia had moved away with her father and possibly died during the siege. However, weeks earlier, Anna had a chance encounter with Julia who is now happily married to an award-winning filmmaker and appears to be doing better than most of her peers.
As Anna rekindles her friendship with Julia, she realizes that Julia is unhappy. Anna recognizes her friend's obvious love for her husband; so she is uncertain of why Julia's eyes possess such melancholy. When Julia treats Anna to dinner one night, Anna asks Julia what she does, and Julia obtusely refers to her time as a dancer which ended because of her "ruined" feet. Julia then quickly changes the subject to Anna's father. She reminds Anna that they both had storybooks in which Anna's dad would write adventure tales. As she reminisces, Julia expresses her sympathy for Anna regarding her father's death. Anna thanks her and asks her about her father, but once again, Julia is less than forthcoming and vaguely replies, "He died too." Her tone signals her unwillingness to say anything further.
After reflecting on her conversations with Julia, Anna's mind returns to her sewing. Even though she is excited about the ball, Anna cannot escape Volkov's ominous presence. She associates him with her father's fear and constant anxiety and begins to dwell on her father's last days. She wonders if she did enough to make him comfortable, to make him know that he was loved, but her mind keeps returning to her father's fear that at any moment, "they" would come for him. Her father's writing had gotten him into trouble several times, but he could not silence his soul and sign over his thoughts to the Party.
As she thinks of her father, Anna goes to the piano stool where she has built a secret compartment. There, she has stowed away not only her father's personal journals but also her sketches: riveting portraits of the siege's horror. Both items have the potential to get her and her family in trouble; so Anna has not told Andrei or Kolya about them. She cannot bear to get rid of them because she wonders if anyone will remember her and Lenigrad's past if no physical record exists.
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After Andrei convinces Volkov to allow Dr. Brodskaya to handle Gorya's biopsy and surgery, he nervously waits for the biopsy results. Later that evening, Brodskaya calls him to her office. Her news, while not surprising, disheartens Andrei. Gorya's tumor has grown into the soft tissue of his leg; so his leg must be amputated above the knee. Brodskaya explains that while there is no sign of the cancer spreading to Gorya's lungs, they have no way of knowing if tiny cancerous cells have begun to infest other parts of Gorya's body. Andrei knows that he must take the news to the Volkovs even though Brodskaya has offered to do so. She seems to fear nothing and care little about the politics of the Volkov case; however, Andrei has come to terms with the fact that Volkov will accept the news from no one else but him.
When Andrei enters Gorya's room, a private nurse has taken over, and the Volkovs are summoned immediately. Andrei takes them to a conference room and unflinchingly tells them that Gorya has cancer. Before he can explain Gorya's case thoroughly, Mrs. Volkov succumbs to hysterics. Volkov has no tolerance for his wife's behavior and tells her to go home to compose herself. After her departure, Andrei provides Volkov with more details about his son's tumor and confesses that Gorya's only chance for survival is amputation. Volkov's reaction is anger. He questions Andrei and argues that Gorya would be better off dead than to live without a limb. He even refers to his son as a cripple.
Andrei must handle the situation with caution because of Volkov's power; however, he also realizes that much of Volkov's reaction is that of a powerless father who cannot accept that his innocent son has to suffer. When Volkov asks Andrei if he would allow his own son's leg to be amputated if he were in this situation, Andrei replies that he would choose the surgery. Volkov's question is in part a test because he knows that Andrei has no son and overtly demonstrates to Andrei that he has read his files completely. Volkov's words sting, not only because Andrei and Anna have not been able to have children, but also because they show that Volkov has thoroughly investigated Andrei and his family and that he knows that Kolya is not Andrei's stepson.
Undeterred by Volkov's attempt at intimidation, Andrei is finally able to convince him that Gorya's life will not be over after the amputation. He references patients who endured amputations during the war who live normal lives. Volkov reluctantly realizes that his son must have the surgery. He also agrees to allow Andrei to tell Gorya. Andrei plans to talk to the boy later in the evening after he has met with his clinic patients.
Later that evening, a weary, hungry Andrei enters Gorya's room. He address the boy in a matter-of-fact tone and explains to him in layman terms that Dr. Brodskaya must get rid of his tumor and that the only way to do that is to amputate his leg. When Gorya realizes what the amputation will mean—that he will never be able to make his father proud through athletics—he rolls to his side in the bed to avoid Andrei. However, Andrei is able to coax him back into the conversation and discovers that the boy is not really afraid of the surgery or physical pain; rather, he is terrified of not being able to make his father proud. Andrei consoles him and agrees to be with him in the waiting room before his operation. They end the conversation with Gorya asking if Andrei has a son at home—almost as if he wishes he were Andrei's son. When Andrei tells him "yes," but then explains that Kolya is his sister's brother, Gorya strangely seems comforted and replies, "then you haven't got a son." It seems that the boy is not unlike his father.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 486
Chapter 8 begins with Andrei returning home after Gorya's operation. He is physically and emotionally drained yet comforted by the sight of Anna cooking when he enters their apartment. Andrei asks Anna if they have any vodka left, and she knows that he has had an extremely rough day. As Andrei tries to unwind, he asks Anna if she will model her dress for him. She eventually agrees to do so because she can tell that Andrei needs a distraction from his work's pressure. Andrei is delighted with how Anna looks in the dress and they begin to dance dreamily around the apartment. Kolya bursts into their small flat seconds later, and their intimate moment ends.
As the small family sits down for dinner, Kolya asks how "that boy" is doing, demonstrating that even though he seems distant from Anna and Andrei quite often, he actually pays close attention to their conversations. Kolya's question causes Andrei to reflect on Volkov's blunt statement about his not having a son, but he does not share that with Kolya or Anna; instead, he tells Kolya about the surgery in practical terms. Kolya states that he would not want to live if his leg had to be amputated, and Andrei admits that that is how Gorya felt at first too. He then begins to explain prosthetic limbs to Kolya, but the teen cuts the conversation short when he sees that they all need a break from the heavy conversation. He surprisingly offers to play something for Anna and Andrei, and they choose a piece by Chopin. As Kolya plays, Andrei's mind wanders once again to Gorya's surgery.
When Andrei's thoughts return to the present, Kolya announces that he is going out to meet friends. Anna wonders when Kolya became so independent, and Andrei reminds her that he is sixteen and mature for his age. Even though she realizes that Andrei is right not to be worried, Anna regrets that her brother does not want to spend more time with them. Nonetheless, she puts those thoughts aside and focuses on Andrei. In an attempt to distract Andrei, Anna surveys the apartment and tells Andrei that she cannot imagine anyone else living in their apartment. Newcomers would not know its history—that her father and stepmother had died there, that she and Andrei had started their lives together there, that this was the only home Kolya had ever known. As Anna reminisces, Andrei remembers Anna's dad's manuscripts and asks her if she still has them. She admits that she does, and she and Andrei decide that it would be best to bury them on their property in the country until the Volkov case concludes. Anna knows that she should tell Andrei about her father's journals and her sketchbooks hidden in the piano stool, but she cannot bring herself to do so. She wants to keep a small remnant of their past close by.
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As Gorya recovers from his surgery in his private room, the hospital nurse assigned to change his bandages warily watches the boy's mother. Lyuba does not agree with the boy being babied and wishes that his parents would allow him to be in a ward with other recovering children so that he would be motivated to recover more quickly. Although she has not worked with Dr. Brodskaya before, Lyuba cannot help but appreciate the doctor's no-nonsense, practical personality. Once, when Lyuba was watching over Gorya, the doctor entered the room to see Mrs. Volkov spoon feeding her son. Dr. Brodskaya orders the mother to put down the spoon and begins to go through Gorya's rehabilitation plan. Lyuba can see that Mrs. Volkov is only pretending to listen. Her face shows that as soon as she gets Gorya home, she plans to treat him like a helpless invalid.
When Dr. Andrei Mikhailovich enters the room, he phrases his instructions in terms that everyone can understand. Rather than talking to the Mrs. Volkov, he speaks directly to Gorya. He encourages the boy by telling him that his level of fitness before the surgery will allow him to heal faster. Gorya is still hesitant about wearing a prosthetic, but Andrei reassures him that it will open up a whole new life for him. While Lyuba recognizes that Andrei is trying to motivate the boy, she also knows that life outside of the hospital with a prosthetic will be very difficult for Gorya.
Six days after the operation, Andrei finally sees Volkov again. Volkov is wheeling his son back from the gym, and Andrei suggests that Gorya show his father how he can get into bed on his own. At first Volkov seems disinterested, but Andrei argues that Gorya needs to do as much on his own as possible. Gorya proudly goes through the step-by-step process of getting into bed even though it exhausts him. When the boy is finished, Andrei can see that he is waiting for his father's praise, but Volkov says nothing. Andrei leaves minutes later; he is furious with Volkov for not being able to offer any words of encouragement to his only child.
When the weekend comes, Andrei and Anna are eager to leave the city; so they make plans with Kolya to bike out to the dacha. There they will bury the manuscripts. On the bike ride there, Anna relishes the fresh air and open spaces. She cannot wait to tend to her garden and spend time with Andrei away from the pressures of the hospital and her nursery school. When they arrive, they all split up and begin the "tasks" that they love. Anna prepares tea for all of them before Andrei and Kolya go out to fish. When the men return with dinner, Andrei has told Kolya about his father's manuscripts and their plans to bury them for a while. Kolya seems disinterested at first, but later that night when they complete the "burial," he blurts out, "It's like a murder. . . and here we are secretly burying the corpse." Anna cannot help but agree, but as she thinks about her brother's words on the way back to the city, she tries to assuage her guilt by arguing that it's not her fault; she did not choose any of their problems.
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After Andrei and Anna's somewhat refreshing weekend in the country, they both return to the oppression of the city. While Andrei fights a losing battle at work to convince the Medical Board to hire another physician, Anna dutifully sits in the statistics course for which her supervisor enrolled her. Her mind wanders, and her bones ache from boredom. To pass time, she ponders everything but the lecturer words. If she were home, she could think of a myriad of tasks to occupy her time. She knows that she should pay attention, that Morozova will most likely ask her questions about the course when she returns to the nursery, but she simply cannot force herself to listen. Instead, she begins to dwell on the Volkov boy's progress and hopes that she and Andrei can put aside their worries. While Anna feels guilty thinking of an ill boy as a problem, she cannot view him in any other way. He has the power to bring immense harm to her family, and he has already stolen much of Andrei's focus and time.
Anna's mind snaps back to the present when the lecturer calls for questions. Anna silently scoffs when one student asks whether it is permissible to record the statistics on unlined paper if one is assigned to a "tour of duty" in a remote region. Anna cannot believe that her peers view themselves as soldiers who are deployed. A second question, however, wins Anna's approval. The young lady seated next to Anna asks in a subtle mocking tone if their graphs must be kept indefinitely. The lecturer misses the sarcasm in the question, but Anna cannot help but compliment her neighbor when the instructor allows them to take a break. The girl thanks Anna and tells her that her supervisor had funds for her to attend the morning session only. Anna enviously tells her goodbye and heads back into the classroom.
Meanwhile, at the hospital, Andrei exits the futile meeting with the Medical Board and tries to get some fresh air. He is surprised when the normally reserved Dr. Brodskaya approaches him. She informs Andrei quietly that she has accepted a "transfer" to a remote region, and Andrei is shocked. While Brodskaya says that she is transferring because the new region will be better for her mother's health, Andrei recognizes that she is warning him to leave Leningrad immediately, and he feels uneasy because Brodskaya is not one to overreact to situations. While Andrei appreciates Brodskaya's concern and practical nature, he refuses to consider leaving. He tries to comfort himself by arguing that the situation will soon blow over and that everyone involved in the case has done the best he or she could for the boy.
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Chapter 11 begins with Anna and Andrei attending the much-anticipated hospital ball. As Anna watches Andrei socialize with his colleagues, she realizes that the night is drawing to a close. She thinks back to earlier in the evening when she had excitedly slipped on her new gown and studied her reflection in the mirror. She knows that her thirty-four years are beginning to show and views herself as just another Leningrader moving on the conveyor belt from birth to death. Shaking off such depressing thoughts, Anna dwells instead on meeting Andrei at the ball in a short while. She has to meet him there because he must complete his rounds right before the ball's commencement. Even though Anna knows that she and Andrei deserve this time together, she still feels a tinge of guilt over forcing Kolya to leave the apartment for the night; she also cannot get past the survivor's guilt that she feels each time she gets to enjoy an event such as the ball. Why does she have such opportunities when so many like her father perished during the siege? When Anna broaches this subject with Andrei, he listens quietly, but she does not think that he understands her guilt.
When Anna's focus returns to the ball, she observes Andrei dutifully dancing with a tall, practical-looking woman. After the dance, Andrei brings his partner over and introduces her as Rita Brodskaya. Anna immediately knows who she is, and before she has time to engage the doctor in polite conversation, Brodskaya tells Anna that the dance is a farewell of sorts for her. She overtly tries to convince Anna that she and Andrei should also consider a move, but before she can say more, Dr. Russov approaches. He proudly tells the little group that he deserves congratulations because he has been promoted to a prestigious hospital in Moscow. As soon as he reveals this information, Anna glances at Andrei and knows that he was already aware of Brodskaya's and Russov's departures from the hospital. Rather than worrying about their safety at that point, Anna convinces Andrei to dance a waltz with her, and the two are able (for a brief moment) to put aside the heaviness of the present.
Later, as Andrei and Anna walk home from the ball, they feel like newlyweds and embrace on the empty street. Neither can remember when they have been alone like this, and they greedily grasp the opportunity to focus only on one another. After they return home and make love, Anna lies awake in bed wondering how long it will take for her to know officially that she is pregnant; she is sure that she has just conceived.
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As Anna stands outside at the nursery, she diligently works to make sure that all of the children get involved. Two little girls cling to her skirt; so Anna tries to coax them to run a race with her. As she gets ready to run, her coworker Irina approaches and reminds her that she should not be running in her condition. Anna shrugs off the warning, races the little girls, and then returns to talk to Irina. Young and cynical, Irina cannot help but complain about their supervisor's new initiative; it's always some new regulation that requires Anna and Irina to spend more time recording information and relaying unwelcome "requests" to the children's parents. After venting for a minute, Irina asks Anna how she is feeling. Anna is only a few weeks along in her pregnancy, but Irina has already brought her a beautifully knitted jacket for the baby. When Anna refers to the baby as "he," Irina asks her if she really thinks that she will have a boy, and Anna answers that she guesses she refers to the baby as male because of Kolya.
At the hospital, Andrei tries to present his argument for being able to send his pediatric patients to advanced therapy centers where they will receive better care. The futility of the meeting demonstrates once again that he has not played the "game" as well as other doctors. He has not ingratiated himself to the right people, and because of that, his patients will suffer. Comforted with the knowledge that he can return to real work with his patients, Andrei leaves the conference and makes his way to Radiology. He plans to ask the technician about some X-rays that he had ordered. As he walks, Andrei is overcome with joy as he thinks of Anna and their unborn child. When Anna told him of her pregnancy, he realized how much he had always wanted a child and that he had suppressed hope for all those years of the siege.
His thoughts are interrupted by Lena, the nurse who had warned him earlier in the year about the Volkov case. Lena pulls Andrei into a closet. He is perplexed by her behavior, but she begins to tell Andrei about Gorya. The boy is coming back to the hospital because he has developed further symptoms. When Andrei hears that Gorya needs chest X-rays, he recognizes that the cancer has metastasized to the boy's lungs just as he and Brodskaya had feared it would. He thanks Lena for telling him, and knowing that the nurse has feelings for him, he tells her that if she does not see him again to go to Anna and tell her to get out of the city. Lena agrees to do so; they both recognize the graveness of their circumstances.
An hour later, Andrei is kept from attending to his ward rounds and summoned by a young clerk in "Medical Personnel" to a small room. When the girl gestures for Andrei to step inside, he is puzzled by its emptiness, but she simply tells him to wait. A half hour later, a nurse fetches Andrei; he knows that she is taking him to Volkov.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 549
As Chapter 13 begins, Andrei is led into a room which Volkov has claimed as his own. Andrei cannot help but notice that even at the hospital, Volkov is in his element. He sits behind the desk in the office and begins his interrogation without making small talk. After he makes it clear to Andrei that he is holding him responsible for Gorya's increasingly poor health, Volkov reveals the ultimate conclusion of his argument: the conviction of Dr. Brodskaya. He reminds Andrei that he recommended Brodskaya to perform Gorya's surgery. He also snidely shows that he knows that Brodskaya has left Leningrad for the city of Yerevan but that she is not out of reach. Andrei realizes that Volkov is laying out his case against him and Brodskaya much as he would to a government panel. He will argue that the surgery was unnecessary, that his son endured "butchering" and pain for nothing.
Andrei desperately wants to remind Volkov that he had always been honest with him. When he first explained Gorya's type of cancer, he warned that it had an extremely high rate of metastasizing, but of course, Volkov knows all of this, and it would only make him angrier if Andrei brought up their previous conversation. Instead, Andrei tries to remain silent as Volkov rants about his son's "better" condition before Brodskaya maimed him. He warns Andrei that he had better stop arguing about what a good surgeon Brodskaya is because he will claim that they plotted from the beginning to harm his son.
While Andrei recognizes that Volkov's diatribe is motivated by his fatherly grief, he is, nonetheless, dangerous because of his status in the government. If Volkov takes action, Andrei would be arrested and forced to confess to sabotaging the boy's treatment even if he believed that he did everything possible for the boy medically. The charges of lying, sabotage, and incompetence would be irrefutable. As Volkov's anger increases, he slams his fists on the desk and breaks a lamp. Still Andrei does and says nothing because there is nothing he can do or say that will turn Volkov from the path he has chosen to pursue. Finally, after Volkov is weary of his ranting, he tells Andrei that his son wants to see him. He has asked his father about dying, and Volkov shows pride in how Gorya is handling his illness. Andrei wants to see the boy, but as he and Volkov head out of the office, he hears Volkov murmur, "There are saboteurs in every profession, but we always find them out."
As Andrei enters Gorya's hospital room, he first notices Mrs. Volkov's changed appearance. Her careful grooming is gone, and instead she looks as if she has aged ten years. She greets Andrei warmly and begins to talk incessantly as if her talking will negate her son's grave condition. Andrei calmly listens and assures her that she is taking excellent care of her son. While he wants to talk to Gorya when he wakes up, Andrei must get home to Anna. He doesn't know how much time he will have before Volkov decides to unleash his full wrath against Andrei's little family. He promises Mrs. Volkov that he will return the next day to see Gorya and then quickly leaves the hospital.
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When Andrei arrives at home after his harrowing "interview" with Volkov, he wearily sits down and Anna sinks down beside him. Kolya, who normally has a smart comment for everything, says nothing. Andrei explains plainly that Gorya is dying and that Volkov has already identified his scapegoats. Andrei wants Anna and Kolya to go to the country and stay with Galya, Anna's mother's friend, but Anna will consent only to Kolya going. Andrei wants Anna to denounce him to save herself, if the situation comes to that, but Anna cannot see herself ever betraying her husband.
Later that night, Anna cannot sleep, so she peers out the window and imagines what it will be like if they are the recipients of a late night visit from mysterious men in a van. This was her father's worst fear and Anna tries to push the thought away. Andrei interrupts her worries and prompts her to come back to bed. Both of them finally fall asleep out of exhaustion, and Andrei awakens at five the next morning. As he watches Anna sleeping peacefully, the telephone rings, and the voice on the line informs Andrei that he has a message from "Medical Personnel": he has been suspended because of an investigation and must make himself available at a moment's notice for an "investigatory interview." The worst part of the call is when Andrei is told he cannot set foot on the hospital grounds. What will happen to his patients, especially the poor children and mothers who depend on him?
The call has also awakened Anna, and Andrei immediately tells her what it means. They both agree that Anna must go to work at the nursery and pretend that everything is normal for now, at least until she can get Kolya to the countryside. While Anna wants to stay home with Andrei, she agrees with him that it is best for her to follow her routine and she begins ready herself for work. After Anna and Kolya leave, Andrei's fury escalates. He cannot help but wonder what his coworkers are saying about him or who is providing treatment to his many clinic patients. He feels so helpless and cannot remember a time in his medical career when he was idle. For a brief moment, Andrei considers suicide. If he kills himself, then Anna and Kolya would be safe from Volkov's investigation; then he realizes that he could never do that to Anna. It would destroy her rather than protect her.
Later that day, shortly after Anna arrives home from work, the doorbell rings. Both Anna and Andrei pause until Andrei says that he will answer the door. He is greeted by a boy with flowers. Anna is excited about the novelty of getting flowers, but as she prepares to put them in a vase, a small white envelope slips out. Anna sees only the letter "L" on the envelope and insists that it is for Andrei. He opens the note and recognizes Lena's handwriting. The note is brief and encoded, but the nurse makes it clear that Andrei is in danger. Brodskaya has already been arrested and Gorya has been transferred to a hospital in Moscow. Panic has ensued and many people have already been called in for questioning. Lena underlined the words "Be very careful."
As Andrei and Anna plot their next move, Anna asks Andrei what he will do if Brodskaya turns on him. Andrei tries to argue that she is not that type but then realizes that Anna is right. If the authorities threaten Brodskaya's mother, then she would most likely confess to anything. Andrei has no alternative than to get Kolya out of the city, and later Anna, if necessary.
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By Chapter 15, Anna has arrived at Galya's cottage in the country to drop off Kolya. While she and Andrei hope that Kolya's stay there will be short lived and that all their lives will soon return to normal, they both realize that their situation is indeed grave. Fortunately, Galya had previously decided to spend her first winter in the country. Tired of the city and the constant threat of spies and turncoats, Galya assures Anna that she will be glad to have Kolya for company during the winter and for help with the physical toil of farm life. Anna lightheartedly warns Galya that she might have to prod Kolya to work, but the older Galya is confident that Kolya will respond maturely to his responsibilities. She and Anna have already planned what they will tell others if they ask about Kolya's presence in the country: he is there for his health which should improve with the country air and with Galya's care. After all, she is a retired doctor. Later, Galya reassures Anna that everything will be fine and that she'll help Kolya keep up with his academic studies; Anna thus reluctantly readies herself to leave. When Galya is not looking, Anna slips an envelope with money on her table to help combat her increased living expenses caused by a teenage boy's insatiable appetite.
After leaving Galya's, Anna secretly visits her and Andrei's dacha to bury her sketchbook and her father's journals. She still has not told Andrei and Kolya about their existence, but she knows that with the increasing scrutiny from those out to frame Andrei, she cannot afford to allow anything "harmful" to be found. Plus, she does not want to have to part with the items forever. As Anna searches for some protective fabric to safeguard her precious mementos, she uncovers a family of rats in the shed and becomes frightened that she is at the dacha so late. She gives up her quest for cloth and buries the items so that she can begin her ride back to the city. As she piles on the last bit of dirt, she cannot help but worry that if her father's words rot in the ground, she will have nothing left of him. Pushing the morbid thought aside, Anna finishes her task and prepares to ride back to Leningrad. Right before she takes off, she experiences a fleeting memory of her burying vegetables right before the German invasion during the war. She had thought back then that if she and her family could not enjoy the fruit of her labors, the Germans certainly were not going to. Similarly now, Anna believes that if she cannot even touch her father's private writings, she will assuredly not allow some disconnected, insensitive government official to read them.
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As Anna and Andrei adjust to life without Kolya, they fall into a tense routine. Even though he is not allowed to go to the hospital, Andrei awakens at the same time each day and gets ready. He works on a letter in his defense that he plans to send so that he can be reinstated. He refuses to think of his situation as anything other than a misunderstanding that he must clear up. Meanwhile, Anna warily observes her husband. He hasn't shaved in several days, and she knows that the boredom and sense of helplessness weigh on him.
After Anna leaves for work, Andrei evaluates his situation. While he might be "fortunate" like Anna's father, who was reprimanded but never arrested, the powers that be have still taken away his ability to be a doctor. After all that he had done for others during the Siege, Andrei has been sent to the corner like a little schoolboy, but his situation is worse because the corner could turn into a prison cell.
Frustrated, Anna does not know how to encourage Andrei. She tries to convince herself that his suspension cannot last forever; so she has said nothing to her supervisor because she and Andrei rely on her income. Later in the day at work, after the children have left the nursery school, Anna and her coworker Irina make small talk. Irina, the consummate romantic, is upset because her younger sister has a steady boyfriend, and Irina has no one. Most of the men her age were killed in the war or siege, and the others are already married. Nonetheless, Irina hopes for someone to love her just as Andrei loves Anna. Irina's newest complaint is that her sister has invited her on a date with her boyfriend's acquaintance, but now she has discovered that the acquaintance has asked to bring one of his female coworkers with him. Anna is glad to have Irina's complaint to occupy her mind for a while and offers her green ball dress to Irina for the "double" date. Irina is excited to wear such a pretty dress, and Anna—for a moment—is happy. Irina notices Anna's lighter spirit and comments on it without speaking specifically about it. While Anna would love to confide in someone, she cannot risk endangering Irina; so she assuages Irina's fears by promising to take care of herself and the baby.
Later in the evening as they eat dinner, Anna suggests that they go for a walk. She wants Andrei to get out of the apartment, but he is nervous about disregarding the part of the phone message that demanded that he make himself available for any further parts of the investigation. Anna settles for cuddling with Andrei, and he promises to read to her. He fetches a storybook from Anna's youth and finds an inscription inside it written by Anna's mother. Even though Andrei does not say it out loud, Anna's mother's handwriting reminds him of her early death from Kolya's birth. What if Anna has complications as her mother did? Andrei cannot voice his concerns, of course, so he focuses on reading to Anna. After he finishes the story, Anna suddenly experiences a heavy feeling of doom and asks Andrei to hold her tight. He obliges and promises her that he will take care of her.
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As Anna and Andrei’s lives continue to unravel, Andrei lies awake at night wondering if each car he hears on the street below is coming for him. Very early one morning, his worst fear becomes reality when he hears a large vehicle screech to a halt in front of their apartment building. Andrei knows he has no time to spare. He rouses Anna and tells her to get dressed. He reminds her to go straight to the country if he is arrested.
Boots stop outside their door, and Anna and Andrei hear a forceful thumping. Andrei opens the door to an officer and three soldiers who inform him that they have a warrant for his arrest. They immediately enter the apartment and ransack it, looking for seditious or incriminating evidence. Anna’s precious food stores of honey and other canned goods are destroyed supposedly because they might contain secret messages; the soldiers even stab a loaf of bread to check its “contents.” Anna watches and cannot help but wince. Her careful planning against future sieges or famines has been in vain.
Meanwhile, the soldiers confiscate seemingly benign items like a shopping list and a little journal of household spending. As the men finish their search, Andrei asks for permission to get dressed. Anna encourages him to layer his clothing; she worries that his destination will require warm clothing. Anna ponders what else to send with Andrei and sees a photo of herself which Andrei has always liked. Although she is unsure whether the police will allow Andrei to keep it, she passes him the photo and he slips it into his pocket. Frantically, her mind considers what else Andrei should take. She snatches his overcoat and hat, and the men search both items before they allow Andrei to put them on. Then, much too soon, Andrei is being escorted out of their small apartment. Anna feels the baby move and reaches out for her husband, but they are allowed only to brush hands. Andrei apologizes for not being able to help her clean up, but Anna disregards his comment and looks after him longingly.
As Andrei is led down the stairs, Anna watches until she can see him no longer. Finally, she retreats into her apartment. She hears the sound of a neighbor’s door being closed and bolted. She is truly alone in her empty, wrecked apartment. Anna’s sense of despair builds as she thinks about Andrei’s fate. She wonders if he has arrived at the prison yet, and if he has already been shoved into an impossibly small cell. She wills herself to banish such thoughts and begins to plan her next move.
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Anna tries to decide on a defense plan for Andrei. She considers going to the hospital first but then realizes she must continue her work schedule. She and Andrei will need the income, especially because he has not been paid since his suspension. As Anna readies for work, she plans to go to Professor Maslov’s house later. Maslov had always been kind to Andrei and worked with him for years at the hospital; Anna believes he can advise her on the best course of action. Realizing that she needs to eat for the baby’s sake, Anna begins heating up porridge, but her mind returns to Andrei, and she wonders if he has had anything to eat. The smell of burning food catches her attention, and Anna forces herself to focus on the task at hand.
In the meantime, Andrei has arrived at his new “home.” As the guards push him into his cell, Andrei wonders if they have mistakenly put him in a closet. There is no room for him to move around or lie down. He settles for sitting with his back against the door—as far away as he can be from the bucket of excrement in his cell. He prevents himself from getting sick again, as he did while he was being processed. He no longer has his coat, scarf, tie, or belt. All of those items were removed during the admissions process. When Andrei first arrived at the prison, he had to turn over all his personal items, even Anna’s photo, and to sign a list of his possessions. Then he was taken to a smaller room, where he was forced to strip. There, Andrei endured complete humiliation. A figure in a white coat roughly checked Andrei’s medical status and relayed statistics and numbers to a clerk. Andrei thinks how ironic it is that these records are being made, but then it is typical of Stalin’s minions. After the exam, Andrei reminded the person in the white coat to sterilize his equipment. The man looked back with surprise; Andrei told him that he, too, is a doctor. He then took the liberty to tell the other doctor that the manner in which he performed the rectal examination was disgraceful and that it is completely unnecessary to treat a patient so roughly. Andrei could tell he struck a chord with the other doctor but also realized that he caught the attention of one of the guards in the room. As if in slow motion, the guard took another soldier’s pistol and advanced toward Andrei, then struck him in the head with the pistol butt. Andrei thought at first that he was going to die in that room. Everything went black, but then his consciousness returned and he vomited. The other doctor was frantic and told the guard he could have killed Andrei, which would create a serious problem for both the guard and the doctor. Andrei reassured them that he is not dead, and the doctor crudely bandaged his head. Later as Andrei sits in his cell, he realizes that the dripping sound he thought was water is actually blood from his head wound. He knows he will not die from the wound, but he recognizes that the loss of blood will weaken him for whatever is to come.
After work that day, Anna takes a tram to Professor Maslov’s apartment. When he realizes who she is, he is less than thrilled to have her in his home. As Anna tries to ask for him to put in a good word for Andrei, Maslov’s wife appears and throws Anna out of the apartment. Anna is humiliated and furious, but before she can leave the area completely, Professor Maslov chases her down and begs her to take care of her baby and to leave Andrei alone for now. He tries to explain that his wife lost everything during the siege and that her two brothers were imprisoned without her ever hearing from them again. Maslov begs Anna to acknowledge that he must protect his wife, but Anna is blinded by her loyalty to Andrei. She rejects Maslov’s offer of money to cover her expenses and storms off. Later, she regrets her treatment of the professor because she knows Andrei would not have liked it, but she cannot squelch the fear that her and Andrei’s fate is becoming more and more dismal.
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After storming away from Professor Maslov’s apartment, Anna decides to visit her friend Julia before she goes home. Julia is married to a renowned filmmaker who has many powerful friends. Anna is relieved when Julia answers the door and warmly invites her in. Julia’s husband, Georgii, is at a meeting, so Anna will be able to speak freely to her friend. While Julia prepares tea, Anna takes in the luxurious furnishings in her childhood friend’s apartment. It is tastefully and artfully decorated. As Anna compliments Julia on her decorating style, she begins to feel faint, and Julia notices her paleness. She gets Anna to sit down, and Anna reluctantly confesses that Andrei has been arrested. Julia is troubled for her friend, but she does not show shock. She calmly asks Anna to tell her what happened. At this point, Anna realizes that her friend must have endured a great deal during the years she was missing, so nothing about the current regime would surprise Julia.
After Anna explains the circumstances surrounding the Volkov case at Andrei’s hospital, she informs Julia that she is planning on making inquiries at the nearest prison. Julia vehemently warns Anna against such a plan. She tells Anna that she does not want her name to appear on a list and that she must protect her baby at all costs. Then, Julia wisely begins to lay out a plan for Anna. First, Anna must disappear. If she does not, it is only a matter of time before she, too, is arrested. Julia warns her that Kolya will also be found and thrown into a juvenile delinquent home. Anna must stop asking people to support her and Andrei. While Julia is glad that Anna has come to her, she explains that individuals like Professor Maslov will be used as witnesses against Anna if she continues to question people about Andrei’s case.
As Anna begins to acknowledge that her friend is right, Julia strengthens her case by describing her own experience to Anna. When Julia was seventeen, her father was arrested; her mother had long ago left the family. Although her father’s sentence was only five years (a very short sentence for that time period), he had health problems, so Julia worried about him. While her father served out his sentence, Julia had a stroke of good luck and was recruited by a respected ballet company. For a while, she lived her dream—until she was summoned one day for an interview. Julia was naïve and went unknowingly to the “interview.” There, she was accused of being at a party where a seditious joke was made. When Julia could prove that she had not been at the party, she was still charged with “insufficient vigilance” and sentenced to a year. She felt relieved that she had gotten such a light sentence, but then she received word that her father had died while she was in prison, leaving her without an opportunity to see him again. Even though Julia does not want to go into graphic detail about her year in prison, she finds it necessary to convince Anna that no one in the prison will care if she is pregnant. When Julia was imprisoned, a woman who was six months pregnant was put on the “conveyor belt”—a form of interrogation during which prisoners are forced to stand on a movable belt for days without food or water and without sitting down. Some prisoners stood for as long as five days. The pregnant woman miscarried after her time on the belt. Anna finally realizes the gravity of her situation.
Julia advises Anna to leave Leningrad as soon as possible and promises to help her with anything she might need. After thanking Julia for her kindness and advice, Anna begins to make her way home.
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Chapter 20 begins with an unwavering Anna waiting outside of one of Leningrad's prisons, where she assumes Andrei has been taken. After waiting in the cold for hours simply to find out Andrei's location and hoping to give him a small parcel, Anna is brusquely informed that Andrei has been relocated to a prison in Moscow. Desperate to find out as much information as she can, Anna starts to ask questions but is pushed aside for the next person in line. A veteran "visitor" whispers to Anna that she needs to be careful not to draw attention to herself, and Anna finally wanders away from the line of people. She is at a loss as to what to do and almost concedes that her friend Julia and Andrei were right in telling her to disappear. What good could she do now in Leningrad? As she unconsciously moves farther away from the line, Anna breaks out into a cold sweat and seeks refuge in the entrance of an apartment building. She feels her baby move and recognizes that she must think first of her baby.
Meanwhile, Andrei is enduring his second day on the "conveyor belt." Bathed in pale, cold light, Andrei faces yet another interrogator. As Andrei stands silently, blood runs down his cheek and neck from his open head wound. He zones in and out of unconsciousness as his interrogator, Dmitriev, calmly tells him that he is in no hurry and that he just needs Andrei to "help" him. As Andrei tries to take his mind off the present, he thinks back to the one mistake he knows the security forces have made. When he was first brought into the prison, the guards shoved him into a crowded cell. While Andrei was not in the cell long, he was impressed by the human decency he found there. One prisoner, Kostya, was an engineer in his former life and had taken on the role of a benevolent leader. The men are relieved when they find out that Andrei is a doctor, but just as Andrei is about to settle in and sleep as well as anyone could in his situation, the guards interrupt his dozing and haul him out of the cell. They lead Andrei to an individual cell farther into the depths of the prison, and while the cell has a sparse bed, Andrei already misses the comfort of being with others who can empathize. He infers immediately that the guards had been mistaken when they put him in the holding cell because his interrogators from the conveyor belt need each prisoner to believe that he is the only one going through such torture.
On his third day on the belt, Andrei's hands and feet are so swollen that he can barely stand. When he does fall down, a guard steps in to make him stand again, and Dmitriev begins his questioning again. First, he informs Andrei that Dr. Brodskaya had signed a full confession detailing her involvement in the conspiracy to harm Volkov's son. Andrei, of course, cannot possibly know if Dmitriev's words are true, but he does know that by signing a confession, he will most likely be executed. Even another day on the belt would be better than signing his name to something that is patently false. When Dmitriev realizes that he will not break Andrei this time, he finally releases him and tells him that he will soon have a very important visitor.
Back in Leningrad, Anna works tirelessly to scrub the apartment. She works as if she is trying to wipe away the presence of the police who arrested Andrei. Her goal is to make enough money to send some to Andrei. She has been told that family members are allowed to send money to prisoners so that they can buy basic goods and toiletries. Anna's plans change, however, when she awakens in a cold sweat later that night and hears Andrei's voice once again telling her to go to the country. Anna can refuse the truth no longer and gets out of bed to begin packing. She cannot take much with her because she does not want to draw attention to herself on the train. As she takes one last look at the apartment, she realizes that it is just like the city of Leningrad. The residents of the city love it, but it does not love them back.
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A week passes since Andrei's time on the conveyor belt, and he has fallen into a routine of sorts. The guards fetch him each morning so that he can use the bathroom and wash. One morning, Andrei sees initials carved into a bar of soap, and while it might seem silly to many, the thought that someone else wanted to be remembered by crudely scratched initials strongly strikes Andrei. Before he has a chance to carve his own initials, the guards call for him, but the next day he quickly engraves the soap with "AMA." Although he worries afterward that the guards will see what he has done, he does not regret his action because he desperately needs any type of communication he can get.
As Andrei gets to know the guards by their walks and facial expressions, he begins to push them more. He asks for books, and they tell him that they are not allowed. He asks to write a letter, and they tell him that he is not allowed to correspond with anyone. Andrei cannot help but recognize the irony of his situation. As a boy, he often stared at the Lenin slogan repeated on school walls, "Life has become better, comrades, life has become more cheerful."
When the guards search Andrei's cell one day, they find a fish bone that he had set aside for a needle just in case he somehow obtained thread. The guards are unhappy and take it out on Andrei. The incident shakes him a little because he realizes how precious his routine has become. Above all, the routine takes his mind off Anna. He simply cannot bare to think of her or what might happen to her if she is arrested. So each day, Andrei tries to go back through his medical textbooks in his head and then mentally travels to his hometown in Siberia at night.
One day, two guards come to get Andrei at an unusual time and will not tell him where he is going. After leading him through numerous corridors, they arrive at their destination—still an unknown to Andrei. The guards lead him into a office filled with secretaries and then begin flirting with the typists. They all talk as if he is not there; he has been completely dehumanized. Even under such circumstances, Andrei cannot help but diagnose one of the patients in his head. He realizes from her thinning hair and young age that she most likely has a thyroid disorder. But just as Andrei thinks he is going to scream at the frivolity around him, he is summoned into the office of someone who must be very important.
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As Andrei is finally allowed into the inner room of the office where he has been waiting, he is not surprised to see Volkov sitting behind a wide oak desk. Volkov dismisses Andrei's "escorts" and prompts him to sit down. Andrei notices that his seat is, of course, lower than Volkov's. After weeks of interrogation, Andrei has learned most of the security officers' intimidation tactics. Volkov silently takes in Andrei's battered appearance and acknowledges that he would barely know the doctor now. It does not take long, however, for Volkov to begin his own interrogation of Andrei. He drones on about "murderers in white coats" and relates the tale of two upper level Soviet leaders who had recently died. Volkov claims they were murdered by doctors who made the deaths look like heart failure and other natural causes. Andrei forces himself to remain silent because he knows that anything that he says will be taken out of context. Volkov continues to talk about Zionist spies and other conspiracies, and Andrei realizes once again that all of this is really about revenge for what is happening to Volkov's ill son. It would do no good, though, to bring up Gorya because Volkov does not want to speak of him.
After talking in generalities, Volkov brings up Brodskaya and claims that she has confessed to everything, including intentionally causing Gorya pain and unnecessary suffering and implicating Andrei in the conspiracy. When Volkov tells Andrei that Brodskaya is no longer under arrest, Andrei asks him if she has been released, and Volkov smugly replies that the doctor's case had been concluded. Of course, Andrei has no way of knowing whether any of what Volkov says about Brodskaya is true; so he simply restates to Volkov that Brodskaya was a capable, competent doctor and the best surgeon for Gorya's case. Volkov does not want to hear Andrei defend her, but as he is about to threaten Andrei more, Andrei lapses into unconsciousness. The days of dehydration, interrogation, and mental torture combined with his untreated head wound have finally gotten the best of Andrei, and he collapses in Volkov's office.
When Andrei awakens, Volkov is still near him, accusing him of taking something to kill himself and then resuming his intimidation. For some reason, even in his stupor, Andrei knows that he must not try to please Volkov. He now knows that he is already dead in Volkov's eyes, so he will not comply with Volkov's theories. When Volkov accuses Brodskaya of intentionally spreading Gorya's cancer and amputating his leg only to cause the boy pain, Andrei stands up to him. He tries to explain that metastasis does not work that way and that while, yes, the amputation was ultimately unsuccessful, the doctors had no other option. Volkov's response is to warn Andrei that for now he is treating him well. Suddenly, Volkov's secretary knocks on the door and tells him that he has an urgent phone call. Andrei is escorted back to the secretarial pool and waits for what seems to be two hours or more.
When Volkov returns, night has descended on Moscow, and he is wearing a dress uniform as if he has been to an official function. He bluntly informs Andrei that he will soon see his homeland (Siberia) again, and Andrei realizes that there was never going to be any release for him. He will be tried, convicted of "insufficient vigilance," and sentenced to a labor camp. Volkov confesses that his son is on his deathbed at home and that he has been forced to attend to official business instead of spending time with Gorya. Andrei can tell that Volkov is very drunk and that something has happened to him during the time he was away from the office. He speaks about saboteurs and pushes Andrei's file across the desk to him. Andrei is somewhat surprised at how detailed the file is. It discusses his parents' background and Anna's. What he finds strange, though, is that there is no mention of Anna's father's fall from favor in the 1930s and his history of being a dissident writer. Volkov shows Andrei where he needs to sign for not demonstrating sufficient vigilance, and Andrei silently agrees that he has not, at least not in regards to protecting Anna and Kolya. He should have listened to Lena and all the others who told him not to take the Volkov case. He begins to understand that Volkov, by offering him this confession, is in a strange way protecting him. Finally, Andrei signs the confession, and Volkov quickly begins to talk to him. He acknowledges to Andrei that this is most likely the last time they will see each other and tells the doctor that he received a hint earlier that evening that his own time is over. Volkov plans to return home one last time to see his son before he is no longer able to. While Andrei tries to remain neutral toward the security minister, he has difficulty doing so because of his sympathy for the hurting father. He tells Volkov that he should go see his son now, and Volkov agrees but then continues to stare out into the darkness of Moscow.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 445
Chapter 23 opens in Gorya Volkov's room. Because his lung tumors have grown so much, Gorya must sleep propped upright in order to breathe. As Volkov looks in on his ill boy, he knows that Gorya feels no pain. He is full of morphine and seems to be sleeping peacefully. Volkov's wife sits beside their son, and she is sleeping lightly. Without her makeup and styled hair, she reminds Volkov of the peasant girl he married years earlier. Volkov does not wake either his wife or Gorya. He wants them both to get their rest. Dressed in civilian clothing, Volkov takes one last look at his family and quietly leaves the room. He notices that no one guards his son's room and silently acknowledges that his intimation earlier in the evening was correct. To reassure himself that he is ready for his next step, he pats his overcoat pocket.
When Volkov walks out into the cold night air, his car still waits for him, but he decides that he must not get into it. His driver seems surprised and appears to want to argue with Volkov but then obeys him and slowly drives away. Volkov is relieved that he does not have to discuss his choice with the driver. After the car is out of sight, Volkov checks his surroundings and is worried that he sees nothing. Everything is eerily quiet. After a brief pause, Volkov starts his trek down the street. When he hears a militia truck behind him, he braces himself but refuses to look at it. Soon the truck passes him, and he is once again alone on the empty street. It is then that Volkov realizes he is rather conspicuous walking alone at two in the morning, so he steps into a small alley. The snow is thick in the alley, and Volkov almost falls but regains his balance and then leans against the alley wall.
As he takes off his hat and shakes off the snow, he hears the sound of a truck again. He believes that it is the same truck that passed him before, only now it is going in the opposite direction. Are they looking for him? Volkov cannot take the chance of stepping out into the open again. After removing his gloves, he reaches into his pocket and takes out his pistol. As he takes the weapon off safety, he methodically opens his mouth and puts the gun's muzzle inside. For a few seconds, he considers the disgusting taste of the gun's metal and cannot believe that his whole career has come to this. Without another thought, he leans forward and with shaking hands pulls the trigger.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 785
In the country, Anna knows that her brother misses Leningrad, but he does not talk about it. She has noticed a remarkable change in Kolya. When she arrived in the country, Kolya was already more mature and serious. He seems to know that it is now his duty to take care of Anna since Andrei cannot. He is proud to show Anna the work that he has down around Galya's small cottage and wants to talk about everything but Andrei. He finally asks his sister what will happen if the security officers come to the country looking for them. Anna reassures him that she doesn't believe that they will. She had been careful to give the caretakers the impression that she was heading east to where Andrei's family was from. It takes a while to convince Kolya that they are safe, but finally he seems to relax and believe Anna.
Later, Anna finds a sheet with handwritten music on it and asks Kolya about it. He tells her that he has been writing, and she's impressed that he can write music without a piano. For Kolya, it is not that difficult, and he excitedly tells Anna that he has written a march and dedicated it to Andrei. Anna wants him to hum it to her, but he tells her that she will have to wait until they get another piano.
Back in Leningrad, Anna's friend Julia has taken care of what Anna left behind. She has been able to sell the piano and when she meets Anna secretly, she asks what Anna wants to do with her furniture. Anna makes the difficult decision to sell all of the contents of the apartment. If she leaves anything there, the caretakers will either break in after her month's rent has expired, or officials could use some of the belongings to trace Anna and Kolya. She convinces herself that they would never be able to return to the apartment anyway and knows that she, Kolya, and Galya need the money. She also has the baby to consider. Galya, a retired doctor, will deliver the baby in her home, but Anna will need money to provide for her small family. When she tells Julia to sell everything, she says that she is doing so because she will not be able to work for a while. Julia reminds her that Kolya is old enough to work, and Anna again realizes that she has babied her brother too much. Julia promises Anna that once she gets everything taken care of she will contact Galya. It is too dangerous for the two to meet again.
Time passes, and Anna does not hear from Julia; she is afraid that she has endangered her friend, but tries not to think the worst. One day, Galya returns to the cottage in a huff. She is ranting about the end of her profession and shows Anna the newspaper which tells of doctors being rounded up for conspiring to kill upper level Soviet leaders. Anna weakly attempts to convince herself that none of this involves Andrei because he was arrested weeks before, but she knows that he could be in even more grave danger. Galya tries to console Anna by telling her that the police are rounding up Jewish doctors first for deportation and that much of what they are hearing is only rumor. Anna cannot help but sink into despair and stares at the paper with the disturbing news. Suddenly, a name jumps out at her: "Volkov." It is only a brief blurb, but it reads:
The death is announced from heart failure of S. I. Volkov, formerly Commissar of State Security.
What does this mean for her and Andrei? She calls Galya's attention to it, and Galya notices the word "formerly." She tells Anna that this implies that Volkov had fallen from favor and most likely did not die from natural causes. Anna is glad that he is dead and decides to go out for a walk. As she walks in the cold snow, Anna thinks about her childhood in the country and the places where she used to play. Her baby kicks, and she is drawn back to the present. She tells Andrei out loud that they will survive all of this.
When Anna arrives back at Galya's, a package has been delivered. Julia has kept her promise and sent her disguised husband with a parcel of money. When Anna opens it, she cannot believe the amount and knows that her belongings, even with the piano, could not have fetched so much. While she feels guilty keeping the money, she knows that she must use it to help Galya and provide for the baby.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437
Andrei knows little of what is going on in the outside world. After leaving Volkov's office, he was soon "released" for the labor camp and put on a train with other prisoners headed to Siberia. As the men travel in the crowded boxcar, Andrei observes his fellow passengers. One man, Vasya, is seriously ill, most likely with a form of dysentery. Andrei does his best to make Vasya comfortable, but he knows that the older man will most likely not make it to their destination. Andrei feels fortunate to have Kostya, the former engineer, on this trip with him. Kostya, who had arranged the men in the first holding cell back at the prison, is once again taking charge. Andrei decides to lie down for a while and is thankful that he has been able to hold onto the warm, padded coat that Anna bought him years earlier.
As the men travel to the camp, they become restless. They are frustrated with Vasya who has become even sicker and are afraid that his groaning will draw the unwelcome attention of the guards. Andrei realizes that their complaining is a form of self defense. Many of them are ill, too, and fear that they will share Vasya's fate. The soup they are rationed is disgusting, and the men wonder out loud if the guards even acknowledge that they are human. Andrei believes that the guards have to treat them like animals because it is the only way they can continue with their neglect and abuse.
When the train comes to a halt, the men are supposed to be completely silent, but Vasya cannot suppress his groaning. Andrei recognizes the sounds of death and moves nearer to him. He finds a slight pulse but knows that there is nothing he can do. Vasya will continue to make the rattling noise for a while longer before he dies. By morning, the guards come around and heave Vasya's body out of the van. Kostya convinces them to supply the men with water and disinfectant by announcing that they have a doctor on board who has warned of infection. The guards are deathly afraid of being infected themselves, so they consent. One of the guards, though, wants to know who the doctor is, and when Andrei acknowledges that it is he, the guard asks him his name and appears to run Andrei's name through his memory. Andrei observes that the guards know that they no longer transport uneducated, weak prisoners. In fact, many in their charge are war veterans, and the guards do not want to run the risk of being outsmarted.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 577
Chapter 26 begins with Anna already having delivered her little girl. Although her baby is eight days old, she has not decided on a name yet. Galya suggests "Vera" which is Anna's mother's name, but Anna wants to think of her mother and child separately. She hopes that when Kolya returns from working on their cottage that he might have a suggestion. He has matured even more since Anna gave birth to Kolya's niece and has promised to take care of Anna and the baby until Andrei returns.
As Anna adapts to life as a mother, Galya and Kolya spend more time working outside of the cottage, but when Galya is inside, she bemoans the fact that her radio has broken. Even though she moved to the country for a quieter, less intrusive lifestyle, Galya still wants to know what is happening in the cities. One day as Anna is nursing her baby, her peaceful routine is interrupted by a loud knock at the door. Galya reluctantly acknowledges that their visitor is her nosey neighbor Darya. When Darya bursts through the door, she is so agitated that she can barely speak. After she catches her breath, she informs Galya and Anna that Stalin has died. The two women have to be very careful with their reaction to the news because to show anything other than dismay over Stalin's demise could lead to grave trouble for them. Anna is so shocked by the news that she puts her head down, and quick-thinking Galya covers for her by claiming that Anna is distraught by Darya's announcement.
After Darya leaves, Anna tells Galya that she hopes Stalin suffered before his death and that he was plagued by the ghosts of all the people he murdered. She cannot help but wonder what Stalin's death will mean for all of the political prisoners like Andrei who were sentenced under his reign. Feeling hopeful, Anna looks down at her sleeping child and feels at peace for the first time in decades. At that moment, she decides to name her child Nadya. As Galya takes in the poignant scene of mother and child, she remembers her friend Vera, Anna's mom, and thinks about how happy Vera would be to see her only daughter now. Galya's memory is bittersweet, however, because the images of her deceased son and husband come to her, and she thinks of all that she has lost because of the war and Stalin.
As the chapter closes, Anna asks for her sketchbook—a sign that she is finally read to move beyond her troubling past. She decides that she will draw every day so that she can keep a record of her daughter's growth until Andrei returns and meets his child for the first time.
The novel ends with a description of the changes implemented shortly after Stalin's death. One significant change is that a Soviet official named Lavrentii Beria initiates amnesty for gulag prisoners. According to historical records, over 1,200,000 prisoners with shorter sentences were released during this time period. Not many political prisoners were freed because they had longer sentences. However in Andrei's case, Beria determined that since "illegal methods" were used in obtaining confessions from the doctors allegedly involved in the conspiracy against Soviet leaders, the doctors—if still alive—would be granted amnesty and released. After the prisoners gained their freedom, they began the long trek back to their homes from Siberia, and one of those prisoners was Andrei.
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