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I wrote my senior thesis on Soviet-era legal dissidence (surprise!) and focused on one man, Aleksandr Esenin-Vol’pin. He currently lives in Boston. I thus spent a good part of my spring semester trying to schedule an interview, which eventually led me to one of his friends, a professor emeritus at Boston University, who asked me for my address in Germany, once I had it. I emailed him after I moved to Bremen. He, in turn, told me about much younger (that is, younger relative to this gentleman) Russian expat friends he has who are in Bremen, gave me the husband’s number, and told me to call.
And so I went against everything in my awkward, misanthropic nature and called.
They, in turn, without hesitation, invited me over.
I went to their home this evening. They gave me good food and good wine and good conversation. They introduced me to their baby daughter. They spoke to me in (and complimented me on my) Russian (I mention this to admit a bias—short of laughing at my jokes, telling me that I speak good Russian is the best way to ingratiate oneself to me). They told me how glad they were that we were going to get to know each other. The wife and I are of the same opinion on the German language and, it seems, life in Germany in general. The husband knew the suburb of Boston in which my father grew up. It was, in short, a perfectly lovely evening. And one that I wouldn’t have had had two perfect strangers not agreed that yes, they would have me over, into their home and into their lives. Or if the friend of my thesis subject had not given me the number and said, with an authority so uniquely Russian that it resounded through email, that probably I would like to make this phone call.