It would be impossible to write a “where are they now?” post about the major characters from Red Flags without including spoilers. Instead, I tracked down a number of minor characters to see what has happened to them since the end of the novel. I gave each one of them an opportunity to read the book and comment on it. Here is what I found…
Evgenia still lives in the fifth-floor apartment in Murmansk, where she is raising her great-granddaughter, Lida. (The child’s father appears briefly in Red Flags as Baby Grisha). “Taking care of my grandchildren and now my great-grandchild has given me a deeper appreciation for everything my mother did for my two girls. On top of everything else, Mama even found time to take Larissa under her wing. How did she manage it? Ah well, it was a simpler time then. Not a better time, mind you, but a simpler one. There’s so much about my mother that I still don’t understand. I probably never will…”
Oksana coaches gymnastics in Sydney, Australia. “I always knew something wasn’t right with Larissa. All those bruises… But what could I do? I was just a kid myself.”
Ursula Diettrich moved to Frankfurt after the fall of the Berlin Wall and is now working as a physical therapist. “My skating career? I could write my own book about that! I don’t have much to say about Larissa, except she was not easily intimidated. I couldn’t get inside her head, and she couldn’t get inside mine. We were both well-trained in that respect. But I was more focused on Cassandra. If you need more stories about her and her mother, I have plenty!”
Mona Gunnarsson helps Swedish hockey players improve their game by teaching them how to figure skate. She also holds workshops for young skaters who wish to learn the art of compulsory figures. “I suppose I should be bothered by all the things Larissa’s coach said about my weight. I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Actually, I feel relieved to know he thought I was unattractive. What a sick, sick man!”
Kirkland Ignatius Pierpointe Kilpatrick (Kippy) is now in his late forties and still performs in ice shows. “It seems like we were all hiding something back then– Larissa, Cassandra, Reece, Ellen, me. Today I am proud to tell people my father was African-American. My wife is Japanese and we have the three most beautiful kids in the world.”
Nina Brileva works for an animal rescue organization in her native Minsk. She has nothing to do with the skating world and won’t even watch the sport on TV. She would not read or comment on Red Flags. “It would bring back too many painful memories. With the animals, I finally found peace.” She walked off in the middle of our conversation to care for an injured kitten.
Valentin Baryatinsky is now a member of the Russian Parliament. “You actually believe Larissa’s stories? Look, I was there! Yuri never laid a hand on her. Or if he did, it’s because she wanted it. She was always an attention whore, among other things. Yuri was a great coach and our sports system was the best in the world. And it will be again! We’re almost there…”
Zhanna Kerenskaya spent over a decade working as a sports journalist before turning her talents to anti-Putin activism. She asked me not to disclose her location or reveal any details about her (second) husband or her grown children. “But please tell Larissa I wish her well. And tell her I’m flattered that she had a crush on me when we were young.”
Norman Fox died of AIDS in the 1990s. He is remembered fondly by those who knew him.
Gigi and Gin coach pairs skaters in Toronto. Gigi remembers having “a lot of fun when we lived in Jacques’s house” while Gin insists that he NEVER talks too loud.
Viktor Shalamov has retired from coaching hockey, but still goes to the rink in Murmansk “when I feel up to it. I am an old man, you know. But my mind is sharp. I remember everything.”