After the end of World War II, Lev Mishchenko was sentenced to ten years in the Gulag. The crime that sent him to the Russian prison work camp was "treason against the Motherland", because he had acted as a translator for a German officer as a Soviet prisoner of war. Somehow, he and the woman he loved, managed to exchange over 1500 letters during his sentence. The letters were smuggled by friends and sympathetic camp workers, so the camp censors never saw them.
There are no easy resolutions in this biography, and the story of life in Russia, both in the Gulag and in Moscow, during that time is shown vividly through these letters, which the couple preserved, and eventually donated to an archive. Figes uses these letters, as well as a few supplementary sources and interviews, to tell their story, which is intriguing, inspiring, and highly recommended.