Sasha Ginzberg-working-as-Galich, impudent entertainer with an instinct to please those who can harm him, struggles to negotiate the deadly shoals and crosscurrents of the repressive Soviet Union.
On one single occasion had he ever come close to danger, in ‘49, during the anti-cosmopolitan campaign, wandering on a vague impulse of solidarity into a meeting of the Writers’ Union’s Yiddish section. Suspicious faces turned towards him as he walked into the room; everyone there, of course, as good a Stalinist as him, but bearded, foreign, exuding a perfume of alien pickles. ‘D’you speak Yiddish?’ asked someone. ‘No? Then fuck off, you louche little momzer. Visit your roots some other way. What, you think this is some kind of a Jew buffet? All the zhids you can eat? Out, out.’ Two weeks later, the section was disbanded, and most of the people in the room were on their way to execution. Only then, reading the paper, did he understand that he’d been protected by the kindness of strangers.
Spufford, Francis (2012-02-14), Red Plenty (p. 135).
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