Olga Yunter’s story began in Siberia, in a place about as far as you can get before reaching the Chinese border, just on the edge of the southern steppe. It was an inauspicious start, her birth coming a matter of hours after the death from diphtheria of her two-year-old sister, Anya. But her childhood was a happy one, surrounded by her other sister and three older brothers, as well as the family nurse, a Cossack bodyguard, and her doting parents.
Troitskosavsk (now known as Kyakhta), where she was born, was a trading post which survived by doing business with China, and her father was from a family of small merchants, a ‘meshchanin', ‘just above the level of peasant in the old Tsarist hierarchy’. But, as Olga would relate to her