In Alice Springs – a grid of scorching streets where men in long white socks were forever getting in and out of Land Cruisers – I met a Russian who was mapping the sacred sites of the Aboriginals.
His name was Arkady Volchok. He was an Australian citizen. He was thirty-three years old.
His father, Ivan Volchok, a Cossack from a village near Rostov-on-Don, was arrested in 1942, and sent with a trainload of other Ostarbeiter to work in a German factory. One night, somewhere in the Ukraine, he jumped from the cattle car into a field of sunflowers. Soldiers in grey uniforms hunted him up and down the long lines of sunflowers, but he gave them the slip. Somewhere else, lost between murdering armies, he met a girl from Kiev and married her. Together they drifted to a forgetful Adelaide suburb where he rigged up a vodka still and fathered three sturdy sons.