IN THE BEGINNING goes back to the poet's life before her arrest, interweaving her experiences of growing up in Odessa with those of her childhood friend and future husband Igor Geraschenko. With wit and simplicity Irina describes a biased and turbulent education, being pressured to work for the KGB, the growth of faith that became so important to her in later life, and an impromptu wedding. Ratushinskaya shows how her early experiences moulded her personality, enabling her at a time of almost unbearable pressure to remain true to her own convictions.
In a harrowing memoir of growing up in the Soviet Union, poet-dissident Ratushinskaya tells how she resisted the state's continual brainwashing efforts amid a society of informants and conformists. She met her future husband Igor Geraschenko, when she was five and he was six; a human rights activist, Geraschenko was eventually branded a Ukrainian nationalist troublemaker. The author, meanwhile, facing constant harassment from the KGB for ``anti-Soviet activities'' like writing poetry, lived on hope and proceeds from samizdat; her book is the song of an unbroken spirit. The final grisly chapters chronicle her arrest, four-year imprisonment (an ordeal detailed in her first book, Grey Is the Color of Hope ) and exile to London, where she now lives with her husband. In passing comments, she expresses her belief that glasnost and perestroika are the window-dressing of a repressive society.