In a small apartment in New York, in the sweltering mid-summer heat, a group of Russian émigrés gather around the sickbed of an artist named Alik.
Nina, his wife, is desperate for Alik to be baptised; Irina, his ex-lover, a circus acrobat turned lawyer, quietly pays the bills; elderly Maria dispenses magical herbs; and Maika, Irina’s fifteen-year-old daughter, prepares to lose the only man to make her laugh.
As the visitors fuss and reminisce over Alik, in a corner of the crowded room the television shows the uprising outside the White House in Moscow and the tanks closing in on the city . . .