Silka says that if more people on this beautiful earth believed in God they would have more respect for one another and our natural resources. That the thousand lakes of Finland wouldn’t be so polluted, songbirds wouldn’t be disappearing, and so many innocent souls wouldn’t be dying of cancer. Belief in God, she insists, fosters respect for the planet and will bring us back to our senses.” Laura’s voice is firm.
“Belief in God,” her husband, Phil, replies, “also gave rise to the Crusades, the Inquisition, cruel wars, pogroms, terrorism in modern times, and doesn’t seem to prevent a desire for profit. In fact it seems to encourage it. There’s little evidence that religion and respect for the earth go together.” So much for your Silka, his eyes tell Laura. The others at the table are a little startled at the unfamiliar sharpness in his voice.
They are in Helsinki for an engineering conference, and they have just sat down to dinner at the “Havis Amanda,” one of the city’s best restaurants, named after the city’s mascot, a mermaid which stands in the park at the harbor. A saucy creature, sexier than Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, with real curves and a come-hither smile.
It is the White Nights in June of 1988, and while the men discuss how to reinforce bridges, tunnel beneath the fjords, weld connections so they are earthquake resistant, increase the spans of auditoriums and arenas, and avoid accidents with lift slabs, Laura and Stella and the other wives see Helsinki and its environs with their Finnish guide, Silka.
Now the men are tired, and to Laura’s dismay, their English friend, Peter, and their Danish friend, Axel, agree with Phil. Then all three men give Laura and Stella, who is Peter’s wife, the same indulgent, mildly exasperated look her father gave her and her sisters in the ‘50’s when they talked about World Federalism—a look which means: Will you women ever learn?
“You must know by now that all people care about,” Phil adds, more gently, “is the bottom line.”
“That’s just Silka’s point. We’ve come beyond the bottom line. This is life or death. People here were burned, literally and figuratively, by Chernobyl. We haven’t been affected like that yet, but it’s only a matter of time. What will it take to make us pay attention?” Laura retorts but is not really angry. She and Phil have been married a long time; disagreements about the state of the world are familiar to them both.
While Laura waits for a response that will probably not come, some tipsy Americans at the next table start to sing. Snatches of “Falling in Love With Love” and “Tea For Two” drift toward them, and the waiters smile as if to say, Isn’t this how Americans are supposed to behave? Laura knows everyone would like her to lighten up, but she can’t. She keeps seeing the sudden fierceness in Silka’s eyes when she spoke about Chernobyl, about the food shortages and warnings that the elderly and children not leave their homes for weeks after the catastrophe.
Soon the Americans leave. Instead of returning to Silka’s theories, the conversation revolves around the day’s meetings. Yet Laura remains cheerful; something very strange is happening to her in Helsinki, something eerie and splendid.
When her father was dying in a hospital in Manhattan five years ago, Laura’s mother insisted he come home, saying, “No one should die among strangers.” “But he’s very sick, you’ll have to have help around the clock, we’ll have to set up I.V.s, it’s complicated,” the doctors warned, repeating themselves, as if talking to a child. Friends asked, “Are you sure you can handle this? How will you live here afterward?” “I want him home,” she replied.
Laura drove her parents from the hospital to Long Island. Her father could still hobble and speak. When they arrived at their apartment, he looked around and said, in a voice as fragile as the thinnest porcelain, “It’s so good to be home.”
A hospital bed had been delivered, and they set it up in his study, but instead of looking out the window as he had when he was at his desk, he now faced the door so he could see his visitors. After a few weeks this man, who prized good conversation above all else, stopped speaking. When family and friends approached, his still-thick eyebrows would rise with pleasure, and even when he seemed to be sleeping he would smile at the sound of a familiar voice. Yet his voice was gone. It wasn’t a particularly distinguished voice, often husky and low, sometimes muffled if he was tired. But when he talked to those he loved it had the timbre of a caress, and even when she was grown the sound of it over a long-distance wire could make Laura cry.
After he died, Laura found it difficult to get out of bed. With the light of morning came an unknown confusion, as if she were a star floating aimlessly in the sky, trying to find its constellation. “What can I do?” she asked Phil.
“Talk to him,” Phil advised, then said shyly, “That’s what I do. When he answers, it comforts me.” Laura nodded; her mother talked to her father whenever they visited his grave. Laura also remembered reading that the dead often came back in the form of a voice, because a person’s voice defies the ravages of time and is often the only recognizable trait in the old. But as hard as Laura tried, it did not work for her.
With time her discomfort lessened. “But I’m still not as sure of myself as I was when he was alive,” she said, “I feel kind of stranded, like bees in amber.”
“But you can see him, can’t you?” Phil asked so urgently that Laura didn’t have the heart to admit the truth. She can see her father only in her dreams, in images that come at her with the swiftness of trees seen from a speeding car. But even in her dreams she cannot hear her father’s voice.
Silka is small, thin, flat-chested (the back of her bra a mere pencil-line) and wears white blouses and blue skirts and sensible shoes. At first glance she looks French; she arranges her light brown hair in a dramatic hair-do that flips up into curls after it descends from a side part. On her right hand is a huge green ball, on her neck and ears elegant jewelry.
It is her talent with languages, though, that sets her apart. Laura has never heard anyone change languages midsentence the way Silka can. With no trace of accent. “How do you do it?” she and Stella ask.
Silka replies with a shrug, “It’s my job.”
“She’s marvelous,” Laura says later to Stella, “I wonder if she’s married.”
“She must be married. She’s almost 60, that’s too old to be liberated to choose not to marry, and she’s too attractive to be an old maid.”
“But thousands of Finnish men were lost in the Winter War against Russia,” Laura reminds Stella.
Stella stands firm. “I’m sure she has children, she wouldn’t be so worried about the earth if she didn’t.”
Now, as they finish their main course, Laura wants to talk more about Silka, but Axel says, “Our daughter who is studying acting in New York just got engaged to a fellow whose family is in the fur business. She’s bringing him home this summer. I knew it was serious when she moved into his place, but I didn’t think they’d marry so soon. What do you think, Laura?”
“I think we’ll be seeing more of you in America, and maybe you’ll go into the American fur business when you get tired of teaching structures,” Laura teases him, but her joke falls flat. Axel’s open face is oddly forlorn. An uneasy silence creeps around them. Laura says, “Don’t worry, she’ll be fine,” and soon the waiter rescues them by announcing dessert.
When Phil came home with news about the conference in Helsinki, Laura frowned. “There are so many other places to see: Southern France, the Italian Lakes, Greece, Berlin,” she said, “maybe you should go to this one alone.”
“We could go to Norway afterward, see the fjords,” he said. The last time she had thought of the fjords was in eighth grade. “It’s not far from Dad’s birthplace near Vilna, only five degrees north in latitude, similar in landscape and climate.” Laura stared. He gave an awkward laugh, “I just thought maybe if we could go to that part of the world. . .I’m sorry, it was stupid of me. . . .” He turned away, his eyes miserable.
Laura is the oldest of three daughters, and after she and Phil married, straight out of college, Phil became her father’s son. He missed her father terribly, maybe as much as she did. They rarely spoke of it, though when she told him about losing her father’s voice he had consoled her, “It will come when you least expect it.” So later that evening she said, “Let’s have a look at that map of Finland.”
They arrived in Helsinki on the overnight boat from Stockholm, the closest thing to “Love Boat,” which they used to watch on snowy winter Saturday nights, huddled with their three children under blankets, the kids bathed and shining in their absurd footie pajamas, mesmerized by the illusion of happiness. But the real thing was more glitzy than the illusion: six restaurants, bands playing Elvis, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, even Gershwin and Kern; slot machines, gambling and card rooms; leather sofas and chairs scattered about; condoms displayed in bathrooms for those lucky enough to have beds. An air of abandon as pungent as the pervasive, sweet smell of pot.
How weird, almost zany it felt to be gliding on that absurd boat through the justly famous archipelago. Tiny green islands, some inhabited, some not, dotted the veil of lilac light known as the White Nights in this part of the world. Darkness hovering all around them, teasing the light, yet never descending. Its luminous trembly splendor made them giddy, bold. Garrulous.
Soon they were talking to a Mexican boy and an Israeli girl who had met six years ago when they were 18 and 16 respectively and had been trying to figure out how to spend the rest of their lives together ever since. “I spent a year in Mexico and we meet every six months. Each time we part it’s harder,” the girl said, while Phil talked about computer drafting with the boy. “We’re so worn out with longing and the fear of parting that we’re shy and angry for the first few hours after we meet. It’s crazy, we know it’s crazy, but we can’t help ourselves.”
“It’s not crazy, it’s perfectly understandable, that’s what love is, ” Laura told her. “What’s crazy is that you kids insist on falling in love with people from halfway around the world. When we were young, you hardly met someone from another state.” Still, her voice was kind. How quickly the girl smiled; she reminded Laura of her own daughters.
Now she said, “You sound just like my mother.”
“Is she hysterical?”
“Of course. Worried to death.”
And so is Axel. But about what? That their children will marry people from far away and their grandchildren will grow up not knowing family and customs, even weather and landscape; or that their children will give up these foreigners and perhaps be consigned later to marriages without love?
“But I’m an adult, I’ve been in the army, and I have to decide. I never imagined living away from Israel or my parents, but there’s an active Jewish community in Mexico City.” The girl’s voice was prim, her words rehearsed. “No matter what I say I can’t convince my mother everything will be all right. The world is dangerous, people die of cancer, in wars, of AIDS, it seems an indulgence for her to worry about where I’ll live. Sometimes her eyes are so sad I can’t look at her.”
Laura patted the girl’s hand. “That’s what mothers are for. To worry. Do what your heart tells you. You only go through this life once, it is not a rehearsal.” At that the thin scrim of fear shrouding the girl’s eyes lifted and impulsively she hugged Laura before they parted.
After they arrive in Helsinki and troop around the city with Silka, Laura thinks of that likable young couple, how touching their dilemma is. For a second she imagines telling her father about them, but then is filled with the familiar emptiness of not being able to hear what he might reply. So she leans in to listen to Silka tell them how the Finns wrested themselves from Russia and created a democracy under Colonel Mannerheim after the First World War that has been an example to the world for almost 80 years. Silka’s voice is filled with pride.
She has the same pride as they tour the Arabia factory. “You know, these are my dishes, I got them when I was a bride,” Laura whispers to Silka as they walk through the brightly lit space. “Then you must see the artists,” Silka insists and takes Laura’s hand and guides her into the inner sanctum where the dishes are painted by hand. Silka explains that Laura owns the Valencia design. Their faces shine with such happiness that Laura blushes; she knows, though, that if she tells them how much their work is admired back home they will not believe her.
After the china factory, they have wine and currant pie in a restaurant located in a cave of the medieval Suomilina Fortress. Yet it’s so cheerful and cozy you hardly feel underground. Two French women join Stella and Laura; they both have children in the United States. “We go to New Jersey twice a year,” the older one says in French, “But such stinking air, I worry so much, surely it cannot be good for them.”
Laura and Stella nod, and soon Silka joins them; they tell her about the chemical plants on the way from Manhattan to New Brunswick. “In the Jersey meadows,” Laura explains.
“The Jersey meadows,” the Frenchwoman repeats, then pauses and says haltingly, in English, “Nothing looks less like a meadow.” Everyone laughs. Laura’s French isn’t good enough to explain to them that her father had no use for those Jersey meadows, so she speaks slowly in English. “He refused to live with his relatives in the midst of those meadows when he arrived in America. He stayed in New York, though he was terrified, because he knew he couldn’t live in a place with such smells.”
Silka nods. “We have the same smells up north, far away. The company that just bought the Arabia plant is part of a huge conglomerate which also makes deadly chemicals.” Silka’s body slumps, and Laura realizes she’s older than she looks. But there is a thin wedding band next to that green ball of a ring.
Into the silence comes the voice of the other Frenchwoman, “My daughter lives in Seattle, she met her husband when she visited Chicago. Seattle is like London, green and beautiful, and my other daughter lives there, in Hampstead.” She smiles, then her face grows sad again. “So I don’t worry about the air, yet still I worry. All the time. Why do they go so far away?”
Laura and Stella shake their heads, and Silka confesses softly, as if it were a sin, “My son lives only about an hour from Helsinki.”
Laura’s father was born in 1902 in Olshan, near Vilna, about 350 miles south of Helsinki, the second son of a large Orthodox Jewish family. He would have stayed in Lithuania until the ‘30’s, like the rest of his family, but for a strange quirk of fate. When he was 13 the German army established an eastern front near Olshan, and he worked in a lending library, which the Germans called a bookstore, where the German soldiers went when they were given time to rest. After the border was moved west, he went with the Germans and lived with an officer named Hoffmann who ran the bookstore; from Hoffmann he learned German, German literature, Shakespeare, the Greeks, the French philosophers and Thomas Jefferson in translation.
When he returned home after the Great War, he wasn’t satisfied just to study Talmud and find a wife. It was soon after the Russian Revolution. He wanted to see the world, not do military service. In the bookstore he learned how to smuggle food and kerosene back to Olshan in a hay wagon. There was nothing to prevent him from smuggling himself out now. He left in May of 1922, made his way to Berlin, took a train to Calais and a ship to America. He didn’t have the required amount of money to land at Ellis Island so a woman lent him five dollars. “How will I pay you back?” he asked her. “We’ll see each other,” she assured him.
“She thought New York was just another shtetl,” he explained when he was dying and toting up his debts. “I looked everywhere but couldn’t find her, I never paid her back.” Even when Laura reminded him of scores of people he had helped, sometimes with sums running into the thousands, he was not comforted.
Their sightseeing bus has two small windows in the back and a glass roof, because, Silka explains, everything is built to take advantage of the sun. The temperature sometimes drops to 50 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. “When the cold comes, the old and young must stay home, sometimes for a month at a time. We all wear scarves in front of our faces. Some years winter seems to last forever, and summer is always three weeks, but we never know when. June is early for our summer,” Silka adds, apologetically, and nods as Laura takes off her belt because the bus has become a sauna.
Laura can never remember being so hot. When they stop for a drink, it is 98 degrees F. in the cafe. The older women sit down; the younger ones stand in the shade. But the excessive heat has broken all barriers among them; they are sharing sodas and helping each other unbutton and remove their clothing with a reckless abandon that amuses Silka and makes for an ease they have never known before.
Using her most effective sign language Laura convinces an Italian woman who is in wool and who has no English or French to take off her chic jacket and have some iced tea before they board the bus. As the Italian does so, she explains in a kind of wild sign language that she never wears sleeveless clothes. “But you have beautiful arms,” Laura protests at the woman’s embarrassment, then adds, “We all can’t be Twiggy,” never expecting the Italian to respond; instead her lovely gray eyes light up and they giggle, as happy as girls who have each, finally, found a friend. Then the Italian says, “I, Rosa.”
Later, when Laura and Stella and Rosa walk to the hotel, Laura is amazed at how pristine the city remains despite the heat. No one’s heels sink into these concrete streets. The sidewalks are spotless. No graffiti here, nor vendors, nor suffocating, delicious smells of souvlaki, pizza, hot dogs, buffalo wings. Only near the harbor are there ice cream carts; the Finns eat and buy in smart restaurants and elegant shops.
At six p.m. the sun is as hot as an August noon in New York. The door to their room is propped open, and Phil sits at the desk, but the air is utterly still. “Can’t we do anything to get a breeze? I’m dying, ” Laura greets her husband. He stares as she closes the door and starts to peel off her clothes. Soon she stands naked near the crack in the window.
“Who do you think you are, Havis Amanda?” he asks. Before she can answer he rummages in his luggage, finds his Swiss Army knife, and unscrews the window stops so the windows open wider. Then he takes off his clothes and they stand side by side at the opening. As a soft breeze flows over their bodies, Laura tells Phil about her day and Rosa. They stand there for almost an hour, not even caring when some young men catch sight of them and start hooting, their speech slurred.
“The young drink too much during the White Nights,” Silka has said. “Maybe to make up for all that dark in winter but they drink too much then, too. The drink is a crutch, a way of coping with extremes, Finland is a country of extremes, so are the other Baltic countries.”
Perhaps that explains her father’s indifference to the weather. In freezing temperatures he would marvel at the shapes of the frost fronds on the windows, then bundle his daughters up and take them to the local pond to skate; and when everyone else was melting, long before houses had air-conditioners, he would come home early and head for the ocean. Laura loved to watch her father swim. He never fought the waves, just let them carry him along as he watched the sizzling sky. “If you can swim, you’ll be safe,” he would say.
The year before he died he went to Ein Gedi and swam in the buoyant Dead Sea once more. A man oddly in touch with the tides. But maybe he acquired an acute awareness of the spinning of the earth because he grew up where winter meant thick, black nights and five-hour, gray days and summer meant short violet nights and endless yellow days.
“I’ve saved the best for last,” Silka tells them. Today the women visit the Suomi Open Air Museum and Senate Square. The museum is a re-creation of life around the turn of the century and some of the buildings have been moved, carefully and lovingly, from Karelia and northern Finland, a few from as far away as Lapland. Young people with shining apple cheeks and starched lively costumes guide them through the houses, which have dirt floors, straight chairs, rough planks or boxes for beds, pumps outside, hearths for heating and cooking, outhouses. Embroidered curtains on small translucent windows provide the only color. They are houses from Chekhov’s Russia, her father’s Russia.
As she listens, Laura remembers a Labor Day weekend in the early 1970’s. She and Phil and her parents arrived at their house in the Berkshires only to discover it had been hit by lightning, which then grounded in the pump to the well. That meant a weekend without water. It was 100 degrees F. for three days. Friends brought garbage cans of water which they placed in buckets near the sinks and toilets. They practically lived at the lake, the kids were happy not to have to bathe, her mother had devised a method of washing the dishes that only she could perform, yet her parents were more relaxed than she’d ever seen them. Laura was mortified. “I’m sorry, Dad, really sorry, ” she kept saying.
Finally her father said, “How many times do I have to tell you, Laura, that I grew up in a house with a dirt floor and an outhouse and a pump outside where we drew our water?” The words went in one ear and out the other. Now, though, Laura understands; slowly her eyes take in every detail of this primitive house built in the year of her father’s birth.
As they leave, the young people, relieved to be finished with the day’s work, begin to whisper and tussle. “They’re from Karelia,” Silka murmurs, but when Laura narrows her eyes she sees her father’s brothers and sisters, ranging from six to 21, all with her grandmother’s brown velvet eyes. Now no joking or poking, now only a tumble of excited voices, then a hush as her young father kisses each in turn: against all logic, he has decided to leave this large devoted family and go to America alone. As he says goodbye, his lips move in a low murmur, but Laura cannot hear his voice; no, all she can hear is her grandmother asking God to watch over her most adventurous child.
When Silka propels them to Senate Square a Greenpeace bus is parked there. It has been there since Chernobyl, they are told. A young man gives them booklets on the dangers in air and water, in food, clothes, carpets and furniture; they press money into his palm. Laura’s children give her the same talks, and they used to lecture her parents, but her father never let them criticize the United States. “It’s still the best country in the world, the most beautiful, the freest,” he would insist, though he always gave them money for The Clearwater and would surely be amused that a boat called The Beluga is educating people to be kind to the Mississippi, which is also a mess. But he’d frown if he knew that along the stretch of Atlantic beach he so loved hospital garbage is being dumped too close to shore.
Soon Silka waves and they gather around the statue of Czar Alexander I. She says, “This is where Sibelius walked every day in a pressed suit and a gleaming white shirt. He didn’t write much after his Seventh Symphony, hardly anything after 1925 though he lived until 1957. But he was very famous, a true patriot, our first great composer with two Finnish parents, everyone loved his music and him. What courage it must have taken for him to meet his public each day though he hadn’t composed anything for so long.”
When Laura tells her that Sibelius’s music is being played more and more at home, Silka’s fine-boned face lights up with as much surprise as that of the artists in the Arabia factory. Why are these people so modest about their achievements? Laura would like to ask, but suddenly Rosa is here with a stricken look in her eyes. She opens a pocket dictionary, looks up some words, and asks in English, “What kind of a world are we giving our children?” Her voice trembles at the effort.
Laura shrugs. “We are doing the best we can.”
Rosa shakes her head and says, sternly, in Italian, “It is not enough!” Speechless with emotion, Laura hugs her and takes Rosa’s arm and they walk together, following Silka and Stella. At that moment Laura suddenly hears a voice in her head, a voice reciting a poem. She heard the poet, Yehuda Amichai, read it in a library near her home. But now Laura hears the poem in her father’s low vibrant voice, which is odd, because he died before she heard it, probably before it was written, yet here it is:
My eldest son’s eyes are like black figs
For he was born at the end of summer.
And my youngest son’s eyes are clear
Like orange slices, for he was born in their season.
And the eyes of my little daughter are round
Like the first grapes.
And all are sweet in my worry.
The eyes of the Lord roam the earth
And my eyes are always looking around my house.
God’s in the eye business and the fruit business
I am in the worry business.
Laura wants Rosa to hear the poem, so she grabs her hand and they run to catch up with Silka. Laura tells Silka about their exchange, then recites Amichai’s lines. “Oh, Laura, that’s lovely!” Silka sighs. As the others gather round, Silka repeats it in Italian. Suddenly, Laura can feel her father’s beneficent gaze. Praise, silent or spoken, wasn’t easy to come by when he was alive, but now she has given these women a poem written in Hebrew, not some brilliant line from Proust or Auden or Nabokov. A poem they will always have because of Silka, who is now translating it into French, German, Dutch, Finnish.
As they wait to board the bus for the last time, Laura begins, “I hate to say goodbye. Do you have a card?” Silka nods, saying, “Goodbyes are hard,” then gropes in her handbag, but she can’t find one. So Laura writes her name and address on a piece of paper, and when she presses it into Silka’s hand she says, quickly, “If you’re ever in New York, please call me. . . .” It is a poor substitute for what she wants to say: How much more in the world I feel, how full my heart is, how I will never forget you.
But even if she could speak so frankly, there is not time. The bus has arrived and now an American whom Laura scarcely knows, stands in front of them and demands, ” “And all are sweet in my worry,” What does that mean? Sounds like nonsense to me.”
“It means what it says,” Silka replies sharply, then hustles them onto the bus and when they get to Laura’s hotel, Silka clasps Laura’s hand so hard that the green ball of a ring digs into Laura’s palm as they exchange a quick embrace.
At the final banquet the heat has let up, and the women have metamorphosed into elegant visions. “A good looking bunch,” Axel observes, but then there is a glissando of breaking glass mingled with exclamations of fright. Laura turns. A young man has cleared a table and is now shouting in Finnish.
“He’s saying he has every right to be here,” a man translates. “That rich foreigners have no more right than he has.” The boy kicks and yells as he’s lifted from the crowd. “Drunk, dead drunk. They say it’s because of the latitude, but that’s just an excuse. It’s a terrible worry, our secret disgrace,” the man adds, blushing with humiliation. People avert their eyes and Laura wonders if her lads have ever drunk that much.
Dinner is slow, the speeches boring. Finally coffee arrives. Though the band plays nice swing, no one moves; they are stiff, uncomfortable, tired of speaking English. Laura wishes Silka were here; she’d know how to get everyone moving; so would those merry Americans at The Havis Amanda. The thought of them makes her smile and Axel thinks she’s smiling at him, so he says, “Come on, Laura, let’s put some life into this party.” Soon they are dancing to “Someone To Watch Over Me.” Can this be the same man who was so worried a few nights ago? His eyes are full of mischief, he wants her to dip. “You do know how?”
“Of course, but it’s been years. . . .”
“Not to worry, I promise I won’t let you fall.” His arm tightens, and at that moment Laura sees her father holding her and the bicycle in his arms. There were no training wheels back then, this was how you learned to ride a bike. He knew very well, for he had taught himself the week before. “We didn’t have bicycles in my village,” he said bashfully. He taught himself when he was almost 40: night after night, teetering, weaving, then riding a line as straight as a die down through the spring twilight that stretched far into the sky.
It must have been almost June, and he wanted her to know how to ride for the summer, and now they are zigzagging down the street while panic rises in her throat and her father asks, “What’s the matter?” “I’m afraid of making a fool of myself,” she says. His forefinger forces her chin up. “That’s not a good enough reason,” he says, “I promise I won’t let you fall.”
The voice in her head is not the somber voice that read the poem, no this is his everyday voice: intimate, coaxing, firm. A wave of relief flows through Laura as Axel maneuvers her into the dip. His arms are as strong as her father’s were, and now Laura knows she will never lose her father’s voice again. It will argue with her, comfort, encourage, tease, even warn her.
If only Silka were here; finally, Laura feels she could explain what has happened to her. But Silka is relaxing at home. And now, as if they, too, have heard her father’s promise, couples rise and float to the dance floor. Though a yellow moon hangs in the lavender sky, no one is thinking about the heat or the drunken boy or Greenpeace or Chernobyl. Magically revived, the women tilt their heads to pick up the first note of music. When it comes, they melt into their partners’ arms, all traces of worry gone from their eyes.