If someone had told me last December that I would meet Andrel Sakharov six months later in Moscow, I—a notorious optimist—would have considered that person a fool. But in June, after unsuccessfully trying to call Sakharov shortly after my arrival in Moscow en route to a conference in Novosibirsk, I asked a friend to drive me to 48B Chkalov Street at around 9 p.m.

I rang at the shabby door, which was opened by Yelena Bonner, Sakharov’s wife. She is used to late visitors, to unknown people from Russia and abroad who come to this door unannounced. We had not seen each other since 1977, though we often have spoken by phone.

“Wait, I know you! Who are you? Frantisek!”

Yelena Georgievna embraced me and led me to the sitting room.

“Andrei Dmitrievich is sleeping, but I will wake him immediately.”

In a few minutes he appeared, wearing old velveteen...

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