Kseniya Melnik | Tin House | Winter 2017 | 26 minutes (7,122 words)

It was nine o’clock on a balmy summer evening when Masha stepped off the last bus to Shelkovskaya, a village in Chechnya. The year was 1938, the second year of what is now known as Yezhovshchina, the bloodiest phase of the Great Purge named in honor of Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the Soviet secret police. Historians from all around the world still argue about the number of unnatural deaths from those two years alone — the upper estimate surpassing a million. But Masha did not know it then. And even if she had, this wouldn’t have been her main concern. She was a girl, a carefree college student until a week ago, when she found out that she was accidentally, unfortunately, unhappily pregnant.

Although she was afraid of the long journey ahead, she believed that…

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