This is an excerpt from Gabriel Josipovici's life of his mother, Rabinovitch, who died in 1996 at the age of eighty-five. Sacha and her elder sister Vera, known as Chickie, were born in Helwan, near Cairo, in 1910 and 1909 respectively. Their father, a Jewish doctor from Odessa, died when the children were five and six, their mother was carried away by the epidemic which swept Egypt when they were ten and eleven. The greatest influence on the two little girls was their English nanny, who died the following year. After a brief period with their Syrian stepfather, Max Debbane, they went to live with their maternal grandparents, and it is here that the extract starts.