Listen to Deonna’s cinematic radio reading of this piece.
Sveta was my neighbor in Baku, Azerbaijan in late 2001. I was married at the time to my ex-husband, Zalmay, a landmine removal expert whose skills brought us to the country to assist the Azeri government in clearing explosive ordinances left over from the 1990s Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
We lived in a luxurious rented top-floor apartment that had one blue marbled bathroom and an intermittent, calcified water supply. Our penthouse was located in an older brick building on Seferoglu Street in Baku’s downtown, an area rumored to be part of the old Jewish Quarters. The walls and floors hosted pelts of wool Azeri carpets and Soviet-era art. Our back door opened to a walkway that connected to Azeri neighbors’ apartments and looked over a common courtyard. A tiny, communal kitchen — one Sveta said really belonged exclusively to her — rested right…
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