It is a bright morning and Rose Cohen is at home in her Moscow apartment worrying about what will become of her eight year old son Alyosha. She doesn’t jump when she hears a hard and heavy knock at her door. It is expected.
Born in 1894, Rose was the daughter of poor Jewish refugees from Poland, who settled in the shtetl of Whitechapel. A bright and motivated student, she studied economics and politics with the newly formed Workers Educational Association, picking up three languages along the way.
During the First World War Rose worked for the London County Council, then in the research department of the emerging Labour Party, then helped found the British Communist Party. Her comrades keep proposing to her too.
By the mid- nineteen twenties Rose had becoming an agent of revolution, based in Russia, working for Trotsky as a Comintern, travelling on secret missions to help develop Communist Parties around the world – in Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, France, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
By the nineteen thirties Rose had moved into an apartment in Moscow with her Ukrainian husband Max Petrovsky and become foreign editor of the English-language paper, the Moscow Daily News.
In August 1937 policemen are knocking at her door.
Stalin’s Great Purge had begun three years earlier with the mass arrests of many Communist party leaders, bureaucrats and others denounced as dissenters, counter-revolutionaries or enemies of the people. Husband Max was one. In March he was taken for being a Trotskyite, because being a Trotskyite was no longer a good thing to be.
It has been a long and unlikely journey for Rose, from the streets of Whitechapel to her beloved Russia. But now that journey is ending as her revolution turns upon its own. The handle of Rose’s door begins to turn too.
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