The essay is aimed at offering a reflection on family stories reconstructed along the female line of the family memory. Intertwining the reading of memories with the contemporary debate around the mother-daughter relationship, this essay analyses the memories left by two ‘daughters’ of the Russian 20th century: Elena Bonner and Vera Politkovskaia. These extraordinary witnesses of Russian history decided to collect their memories to react to a painful distance: Bonner, at a mature age, seeks a suspended and lost dialogue with her mother, after she passed away in 1987; Politkovskaia, a woman in exile after the 2022 invasion of Ukraine that disrupted her family, remembers her mother (murdered in 2006).
Through the investigation of the female line of family memory, the relationship between mother and daughter – a crux of women’s biography and a leading theme of women’s literature – may become a utopian model of a story that involves such persons. By refusing emotional distance in writing, the memories of Bonner and Politkovskaia can suggest a horizon within which to build a cultural and literary history of Russia. This, in turn, should be capable of welcoming the questions that female voices have raised about that same history.