of jet black on his head, her exhaustion and pain were swept
away. As her spirits lifted, she became absorbed in this miraculous
bundle of joy.
    His birth was miraculous. She knew that
better than anyone. Hadn't she and her husband, Dmitri, tried for
years to conceive? At thirty-nine years of age, she had begun to
give up hope of ever getting pregnant.
    Now, as she held little Mikhail, endearingly
known as Misha, in her arms, that despair was replaced with an awe
such as she had never known. Sonia had thought that she was
prepared for this moment, but nothing she had ever imagined had
readied her for the immense emotions stirred up within her by the
arrival of this child.
    She was overwhelmed by the powerful and
sublime sense of wonder she felt, and the accompanying sense of
responsibility ignited every maternal instinct within her,
instincts whose existence she hadn't been aware of before. Oh, yes,
she had heard other mothers and fathers chattering on ad infinitum,
and she had read everything that dealt with the subject.
    Still, brilliantly intellectual as she was,
she hadn't had a clue that her feelings would be this powerful,
that her desire to protect and nurture this child would become the
all-consuming purpose in her life.
    So it was with thanks to a beneficent God and
a determination to give Misha everything humanly possible that she
and Dmitri Levin took their child home. It was on January 12, three
days after giving birth, that she and Dmitri slowly but excitedly
trudged up the four flights of dark and rickety stairs to their
apartment with Misha. Dmitri unlocked the door to their Prussian
blue parlor and immediately helped comfortably settle Sonia, babe
in arms, on a Karelian birch daybed, which was swathed in old
throws of wild boar and Moldavian kilims. Here she received their
friends and acquaintances to show off their infant, Misha.
    In later years Sonia delighted in telling
anyone who would listen that it was on the Becker concert grand
piano in that very room that little Misha had first focused his
dark, bright eyes. On her very first glimpse of
    the newborn infant, in fact, she had noticed
his long, slim fingers—so suitable for playing that same grand
piano. As she greeted the endless procession of friends who came to
visit, Sonia felt like a czarina, surrounded as she was by the
faded grandeur and beautiful objects of their parlor, the baby in
her arms.
    The Levins, Sonia knew only too well, were
very fortunate to be able to bring their baby home to such rooms in
Moscow. It was an attic apartment in one of the few remaining old
mansion blocks within walking distance of the Kremlin, in one of
Moscow's oldest districts. Like many apartments in that precinct,
it had been purposely kept empty during Stalin's reign of terror,
for fear that it could be used as a sniper's lair. After the
dictator's death, artists were gradually permitted to move into the
attics, and the Levins had lived there ever since, thanks to their
prodigious talent as musicians and painters—and the ever-watchful
eye of the Ministry of Culture.
    Soma's and Dmitri's immediate forebears had
managed to survive the waves of terror, from the revolution of 1917
on through the world war, plus the deeply entrenched anti-Semitism
that had always pervaded daily life in both czarist and now Soviet
Russia. But survive they had, even though any vestige of their
religious faith and Jewish culture had been driven underground.
    Sonia and Dmitri, like their deceased parents
before them, were brilliant and hardworking musicians—pianists in
their case—performers and teachers, who belonged to the union.
Membership in the powerful unions was a rare privilege for Jews,
and as a result they lived luxuriously by Soviet standards, even
though they had to share an antiquated kitchen and a single,
somewhat primitive, bathroom with seven other families in the old
mansion attic.
    It was a crumbling, once grand, house, with
high ceilings, glittering chandeliers,

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