The story is about a young Russian woman named Kira Argounova who struggles to keep her freedom of thought during and after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Kira Argounova and her family are returning to Petrograd after five years of exile in Crimea due to the Russian Revolution. Kira's father was a very wealthy man before the revolution. He owned some textile factories and a big mansion in the city. Returning to Petrograd means that they have to adapt to the new Soviet realities. Their mansion was taken away and the factories were nationalized. The family must survive on ration cards, accept some demeaning jobs and participate in the social activities that the Communist Party makes mandatory.
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Kira is an independent woman and she decides to keep her spirits up and do whatever she wants despite the pressure. She becomes a student at the Technological Institute and she dreams of becoming an woman engineer. She wants to build bridges and skyscrapers.
One day, her cousin, Victor tells her that he likes her and that they should get married. Kira is offended and she runs away from Victor. She ends up in a bad neighborhood and she meets a handsome young man that she likes. She pretends to be a prostitute and she goes away with him. They end up talking and she finds out that his name was Leo Kovalensky and that he was the son of a former admiral and counter revolutionary. Leo and Kira fall madly in love and she moves in with him despite her family's desperate opposition. They try to escape Soviet Russia and go abroad but they are caught and Leo is sent to jail for a few weeks and than he is released.
Leo and Kira must face the harsh realities of life in a very oppressive regime. They are both expelled from the University because they were former aristocrats. Leo loses his job and he can not find another one. Kira has a friend named Andrei Taganov and she asks him to find her a job. Andrei is a communist and a member of the secret police but he likes Kira very much and he finds her a job. Leo gets really depressed because he can not find a job. He coughs a lot and he goes to the doctor who tells him that he must seek immediate treatment for tuberculosis otherwise he will die. Kira is desperate because they have no money. She decides to sleep with Andrei and to ask him for money. She lies and she tells Andrei that her family is in desperate need of money and that she loves him. He offers her a lot of gifts and money and she sends Leo to a sanatorium in the south. Leo gets better and he returns to Petrograd after eight months. He is still very depressed and he decides to become a food speculator so he can make a lot of money for Kira. Leo makes some new friends and he succeeds in making a lot of money. Kira sleeps with Andrei and she is very guilty. She can not tell him about Leo and he thinks that she loves him very much.
Andrei finds out that Leo is a speculator and he goes to his place to arrest him. He finds out that Kira was living with Leo and that she was his mistress. Kira intervenes and tells Andrei her story and the fact that she loves Leo more than anything in the world. Andrei understands that he was living a lie and he kills himself. Leo gets released but he leaves Kira and goes away with a woman named Antonina.
Kira is devastated and she decides to go abroad no matter what. She travels to the Russian-Latvian border and she tries to cross it by walking through the snow, She gets dressed in white by using her mother's wedding dress so that she can not be seen. She walks all night but a guard shots her and she dies calling Leo's name.
Best part of story, including ending:
This is a very sad story. I liked it because it illustrates the great struggle under the communist regime. Kira is a very strong woman and she can be an example to us all.
Best scene in story:
Kira and Leo are madly in love and they move to his house. The next morning they are perfectly happy. They are ready to face the world and live their lives as they please. They are strong and young and their spirits are high. It is such a beautiful scene.
Opinion about the main character:
I like Kira's determination to keep Leo alive. She is strong and she decides to stop at nothing in order to obtain the money that she needs. She is such a powerful woman.