When Lenin came to Prague in 1912 he stayed in the Zizkov Quarter: first at the Hotel Myska and then at the Golden Wheel Inn. He must have had a rotten view from his windows, because the inn overlooks the monstrous Zizkov gasworks. I remember them well. Our flat was in the same block as the Golden Wheel, whose landlord was a family friend, maybe even a distant relative. I used to go there for our beer, and he always poured generous measures.

According to the memoirs of Lenin’s friend Onufriyev, Lenin liked to go skating at a nearby rink, especially on winter evenings. In those days there was only one skating-rink in our neighbourhood: the one by the Czechia football ground a few streets past the present-day Prague Central Station. And directly opposite was the Villa Teresa, which was to become the first Soviet Embassy.

This was also the skating-rink that I and my friends used to go to. We, too, went mainly in the evenings – afternoons were spent at school or over homework.

The Business of Mourning