The evening was special because some dozen or more of Anna's relatives came together and put on a night of fun and feasting that make a good New Year celebration truly great. Although everyone contributed to the evening for me it clearly belonged to a fine lady who left me with a very special memory I'll treasure for a long, long time.
Anna's babushka or, if you prefer, Alicia's great babushka, sat at the head of the table. Although late in years she sat very upright, gait quite perfect, almost majestic. She talked slowly, deliberately, gently and quite beautifully.
Sat next to her was a man who understands opportunity when it comes knocking and surrounded by relatives good in both Russian and English I slowly began to probe and open up a wonderful personal history that confirmed my view that I was in the presence of a very special lady who had some stories to tell.
She told me that her mum was a member of the communist party aged just 15 and "took an active part in the Revolution". She said she remembered when she first heard that their leader was a man called Stalin and how they thought he was a man "next to God". She explained how she and others laboured hard in the fields because they wanted to serve him well. I asked her if she remembered the day Russia declared war with Germany and she replied of course she did. She said she remembered it well "we cried all day long because we knew so many Russians were going die" she added, her face looking disturbed and stressed.
As we headed towards the latter part of my interview I wanted to lead her into more positive memories in the hope she'd finish feeling good about my gentle inquisition so I asked her when she first met her husband. Before I did so I looked at her and I couldn't help but think of the Titanic movie where a once youthful lady recounts her life story at the beginning and end of a film. The lady in front of me smiled gently through a face that though now "a carefully written page" was still very beautiful.
She told me she had met her husband at a college dance and the attraction had been immediate - a statement confirmed by the fact they were married within six months. When I asked if it was love at first sight she merely replied "we both knew". I couldn't help but think about the happenstance around it all which scared me terribly. What if either of them hadn't turned up at that dance? Might there have been no him, no Tatiana and no wife and certainly no daughter?
She explained they had both worked for the first three months in one place before being posted to another much farther away. She worked on environmental matters and he in agriculture. For a good period of their early marriage he was away mapping a huge forest returning only for the weekends. But he was a family man and lived for his wife and children.
By the end of the ending everyone but she and I had peeled away and gone to bed. I thanked her for sharing her world and tremendous personal history with me and others. I hugged her and struggled to let her go.