When I was around ten, I used to think a lot about how I would use time travel. My interest came after hearing family stories about the great hardship my mother’s parents and grandparents went through in Russia during the early years of the twentieth century. My grandmother was still a young girl when her village was burned by white Russians or Cossacks, and the family endured an arduous journey, first on foot to France and then by boat to the United States. My grandfather’s family escaped village pogroms by smuggling themselves into St. Petersburg, nearly getting my grandfather and his little brother impaled on pitchforks in the process. There are rumors that as a young teen Grandpa passed out flyers for Trotsky. Anyway, they eventually had to leave St. Petersburg too. I loved science fiction and watched a show called The Time Tunnel, where each episode involved using the time tunnel to go back in time.
So I indulged myself in a few fantasies about what I would do with the time tunnel. For one thing, I thought that I could somehow stop Grandma’s village from being destroyed by bringing them a few modern weapons. But most of my time was spent thinking about how to help the Trotskyites. I was pretty sure that Trotsky wouldn’t have been the horror Stalin was and would have been nice to Russian Jewish families. Furthermore, at this tweener age I was convinced that Trotsky would have allowed democratic institutions to be established.
As it turned out, I had to conclude that there was no way to change the course of history and ensure that my grandparents would meet. Even if I could think how to maybe arrange that, how would I get my parents to meet too? And if they didn’t meet, I wouldn’t exist. And then there was the problem of growing up in Russia. Would that Russian kid still be me? Was I willing to sacrifice my life and most likely my parents for the good of millions? Not only Russians but the whole Cold War in my mind would have been avoided. It was lot to think about.