The author is a direct descendant of the prominent Kiev Brodskys, whose wealth derived from the sugar industry at a time when Ukraine formed part of Russia. This family's lavish benefactions - hospitals, educational institutions and a bacteriological institute - mainly to Kiev, Odessa and Zlatopol, gave them a certain power and influence. Alexandra Brodsky has drawn on family archives and Russian-language publications to sketch her ancestors' life of affluence before the Russian Revolution. Her personal account begins in pre-war Berlin among the Russian emigre community and childhood memories of bewildering situations and poverty. The humourless atmosphere is further darkened by the rise of the Nazis and Hitler. By the time she is in High School, the need to emigrate has become acute and the tension builds as expulsion looms. The reader shares these anxieties through the eyes of a child who has learned to watch in silence.