In the land where Ekat Bork was born (43°48′N 131°58′E) tigers, snow leopards and bears lived in the woods. On the coldest days they might roam into the suburbs, scavenging for food. The neighboring settlements were Uncle Joe’s gulags or outposts of the Russian military machine. Ekat was too young to remember the Soviet Union.
“Because you make me weird.”*
The people Ekat knew made shoes and soap and sugar and repaired locomotives. The oldest cinema in town was called the Grand Illusion. Sometimes, if there was a little money, her mother would take her shopping in China, 35 miles to the west, or she would venture the same distance east to stare out at the ocean towards Japan. Her mother struggled. She lived with her grandmother. She didn’t know her father.