Instead of a Preface

During the terrifying years of the Yezhov repressions, I spent seventeen months in Leningrad prison lines. One time, someone thought they recognized me. Then a woman standing behind me, who of course had never heard my name, stirred from her own, though common to all of us, stupor and asked in my ear (there, all spoke in a whisper):
—Could you describe this?
And I said:
—I can.
Then, something akin to a smile slipped across what once had been her face.

—Anna Akhmatova
April 1, 1957, Leningrad
Translated from the Russian by Alex Cigale

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