The Russian ballet director, People’s Artist of Ukraine, embraced me at the stage door like a prodigal daughter. He led me into a labyrinth of corridors, up flights of stairs, through heavy doors, into the cool darkness of the empty stage.
The footlights went on, and the auditorium’s chandelier began to glow, revealing gilded tiers of vacant, red plush seats.
Mute harmonies swelled from the orchestra pit.
An invisible audience clapped.
German officers in ornamented uniform saluted.
Before the arched proscenium, in bone-white tulle and satin, my mother accepted accolades.
* * *
Outside, above the debris of Lenin’s toppled statue, on the roof of Lviv’s Opera House, Winged Glory balanced, arms outstretched, a golden palm branch raised above the laurels on her head.
Phantom trucks rolled from the Jewish ghetto.
In the forest, gunshots echoed.
Beyond the birch trees at the Polish border, souls escaped from smoking chimneys, blackening the sky.
* * * * *