You need warmth to live on

You need warmth to live on

In Krasnoyarsk people entered into heated debates about whether or not raising a Stalin monument in town. So far it was decided to erect a bust of the generalissimo and of General Zhukov in a closed room of the Memorial Complex of Victory for the approaching Victory Day.

My personal attitude towards Stalin has already developed during the Soviet regime it has not changed since then. I categorically do not want monuments to be erected to his honour anywhere inmy home country. However ..., if the war veterans insist, well, then we also have to have respect for them. We simply have to. On the whole, such a decision  seems to be correct. I would like to have the following letter published not to give my argumentation on the present monumental conflict of opinions, but as an appeal to mercy and compassion. This is a matter of topical interest, after all.

The Refugee

Dear Editors, I kindly ask you to publish this letter. May those, who passionately plead for the raising of a Y.V. Stalin monument in Krasnoyarsk reflect on this story and well rethink their attitude.

 Sincerely yours,
Ivan Semenovich

 There was a tense atmosphere in the third grade. The children were writing an essay on the topic My dad. They eagerly concentrated on using the correct letters these future construction workers, grain farmers, seamen, pilots. Which of these sighing little chaps is going to occupy a worthy place in life? What was to become of each of them? What is their predestination? Such were the thoughts of the teacher. A sudden weeping penetrated the silence. The daughter of the agronomist was crying. She had dropped her head with the light curls on the school bench, was bursting into violent sobs the whole little body was shaking. Why are you crying? Tell me what happened!. After the girl had slightly calmed down it said: They took dad away to the NKVD last night. Mum is also crying. 

Well, go home then and try to quiet your mum. Everything will be okay, the teacher tried to convince her. It was the very last lesson the poor girl had attended in our classroom.

For the whole life I have been keeping this crying, pitiful girl, the unhappy Natasha, in my mind. Her rose-coloured dress with the blue cornflowers, the patch pocket, the blue ribbons and the little loops for the belt ... She held a selfmade satchel with books in her hands. She hung herhead, her clear blue eyes got dull. Thus she left us. There was dead silence in our class-room. The teacher tutned to the blackbord and pressed a handkerchied to her eyes. Although we were yet children, we knew very well about the meaning of the NKVD. They permanently talked to us about enemies of the people. About brute kulaks and counter-revolutionery conspiracies. A good many mothers would come running up to a playing ground for children, drag away her sons and say, by pointing to some other child: Thats no fit company for you. His father is an enemy of the people. Only the most courageous became friends with such children, for associating with the children of enemies of the people was dangerous and utterly unwanted. One might have forgotten about this case, as well as about many others, which came off in a similar way, but up to this day its consequences from time to time cause an unvoluntary flood of tears. Whenever you recall this to your mind, you feel you have to shout out so that everyone will hear it: Man, be merciful!

Natashas family father Nikolay and mother Vera came to our village as young specialists. He was an agronomist, she a live-stock expert. This was in 1940, the year before the war broke out. The family moved into a little house. Very diligently and by an indefatigable enthusiasm they soon changed it into a nice-looking place with a beautiful big front garden, a flower-bed, coloured window crosses and a lot more a feast for the eyes of those who passed by. The family would often take walks along the river. It seemed as if luck itself had made its appearance in the little house. One year passed by. The war broke out. In the summertime Natasha got a little brother. Now we are complete, the young father announced happily. Soonafter he was denounced either from envy or merely out of sheer spite. His name was dragged in the mud. They arrested Nikolay in October. Vera was often told to come to the district NKVD, where she was questioned, then released and this happened many, many times. The girl was taken ill with scarlet fever, which was nothing unusual at that time. She was taken to the district hospital. Then the little boy fell ill. The poor mother ran to and fro from the hospital back home to her sick son, then to the NKVD. Not dressed in the right clothes for the season, she went theought the streets desperately asking the passer-bys: DonT you know, whether they have already released Kolya? Or she would complain with the neighbours: Kolya hasnt come home to get his meals for such a long time! The neighbour, who she usually fetched milk from, was rather disquieted. She said: Your son keeps so quiet all the time, he never utters a sound! The porr mother found her dead child. Vera lay down on the bedstead and pressed the boy to her breast. They were buried together. Only very few people were present at the funeral. Only those, who had dug the grave, the carter who had taken them to the cemetery and a couple of old people. The little house was left behind without occupants, looking a sorry sight with its broken window crosses, reminding the people of the short, transient luck of its inhabitants. Towards spring the emaciated girl was discharged from hospital and sent to a boarding-school. Completely bald, with wrinkles all over her face like an old woman, she was hardly able to walk. Weak, exhausted and entirely indifferent for what was going on around her, she asked one and the same question again and again: Why does mum not come here? They did not tell her the truth being prepared for the worst. But in some way or other she learned about what had happened. That very year Easter was on the 20th of April. It was a cold spring. During the day the air warmed up a little, but at nighttime there was severe frost. In the Easter week the girl disappeared from the boarding-school. Nobody took great trouble to search for her. The district militia officer questioned the neighbours and her class-mates, and thus the search was brought to an end.. She is probably wandering about and will return by herself sooner or later, the rulers decided. They found the girl on Parents Day. One of the compassionate villagers intended to have a look at Veras and her sons burial place. Natasha sat there, her shoulder leaned against the unplaned cross, as if she has just sat down to relax. Her hands were pressing a willow-rod with catkins on it. What were your thoughts, when you came here on weak legs to see your mum and little brother again? How did you imagine this meeting to be? Or doesnt death mean the end of all entity in your childish awareness? Did you believe in a miracle yet? Did you hold the twig in your arms to please those, who were so closed to you? You dear little girl, you knew about the meaning of warmth, you knew that warmth means life. That is why you pressed the twig so passionately to your breast to prolong its life. What did you dream during the last minutes of your life? Maybe, that your mother affectionately embraced you with her warm arms? Maybe, that your fathers breath warmed you up and made you fall asleep? They say that a person who is freezing to death feels a pleasant warmth all over his body. Maybe that is why such a forgiving, peaceful smile remained on your face. It was not granted to you to live and  please the world. The horrible stamp of repressions had made an innocent shoot dry up. The world around you was destroyed by the bad smell of human meanness. You were not hard to please, you did not ask too much.You would have been content with just a little sympathy, a little warmth, which all children need.

Save us and watch over us, our Lord, and be merciful!
I.S. Bolotov, Krasnoyarsk

Komok, No. 17, 03.05.2005

 


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