The new mythos of the martyr city was being created, as befits a mythos, in deep secrecy, underground. At first only her closest friends knew about the existence of Akhmatova’s Requiem. For many years she did not commit it to paper but secreted it in the memories of several trusted friends. They were to be the bearers of that still hidden mythos until such time as the secret could be revealed. Lydia Chukovskaya, one of those living depositories, recalled meeting with Akhmatova in her bugged apartment: Suddenly, in the middle of a conversation, she would stop, and looking up at the ceiling and walls, she would pick up paper and pen; later she would say something quite social very loudly, “Would you like some tea?” or “You’ve gotten quite a tan,” and write on the scrap of paper in a quick hand and give it to me. I would read the verse, memorize it, and silently return it to her. “We’re having such an early fall this year,” Akhmatova would say loudly, strike a match, and burn the paper over the ashtray. It was a ritual: hands, match, ashtray—a beautiful and bitter ritual.
— from Solomon Volkiv’s Saint Petersburg: A Cultural History