When I was in school, we had civil defense classes. We were shown models of American missiles aimed at the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and we were taught to use gas masks. We Moscow students did not believe that the United States would attack our country. We read Ernest Hemingway and Kurt Vonnegut, and we knew that the best Americans were always anti-war. However, my first American friend, Cathy, whom I met in Moscow in the perestroika years, did believe when she was a child that the USSR would attack America. She told me how she would wake at night in fear and decided to study Russian so that she could explain to the Russians that they should not bomb peaceful American cities.
In 1991 we were together at the barricades defending the White House—the name for the Parliament here in Moscow—during the coup attempt, and when women were asked to the leave the barricades as the action heated up, Cathy made a fiery speech declaring she had the right to defend democracy in Russia, since the future of the whole world depends on it.