A Week in Winter
In a small American consulate in Eastern Europe, in the dead of winter, an announcement has been made to all the staff: at the end of the week the Ambassador will be paying a visit to their remote station, a small neglected outpost, the reason for which nobody knows. The news sets the staff members on edge, all those except for the narrator, Clark, who has been assigned to do menial tasks in the basement of the building punishment, he suspects, for his lack of esprit de corps. There he encounters a group of refugees, Jewish families that have sought asylum in the consulate to escape the city's violent nationalists. The consul, Fitch, has allowed these families to occupy space temporarily, but as the week progresses and the preparations for the Ambassador's visit reach fever pitch, the fate of the families in the basement becomes increasingly uncertain. Clark has befriended one member of this desperate group, Dora, who like the others has fled her home with her family because of the threat of a pogrom. Wishing somehow to help her, and yet powerless in the consulate to keep them safe indefinitely, Clark resolves to make a small gesture of goodwill: he will go, against the will of his boss, Fitch, to the apartment Dora abandoned to collect some sheet music that she has left behind, and which has value for her, as she is a musician. What he discovers in the apartment shatters any illusion that she and her family are safe in this city. Upon his return, however, he learns that the consulate, too, offers them no safe harbor.On Friday the Ambassador arrives, and his purpose for coming is revealed.
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