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Прокудин Николай Николаевич
Misfortune of Siberia (Сибирская Трагедия)

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    Переведенная на английский язык "Сибирская трагедия".

  Nikolai Prokudin
  Misfortune of Siberia
  Translated by Anna Grinko
   This terrible story was told by my father and one hundred-year - old granny. In the thirties of the 20th century my relatives had personal experience of everything written here. This is based on the events had taken place at the time of the Great Purge in the Soviet Union. Siberia was an experimental region as well for surrendering the surpluses of agricultural production and making of collective farms as property and ground socialization. Bolsheviks committed a crime against Russian people. A great number of hard-working peasants suffered extremely, almost all of them were in exile and then died there. So, let"s start...
  One gloomy morning Alexander was walking along the streets after night-watch had spent at the fire-station he worked for. He could hardly drag himself along. He was hungry as a hunter. Before having some classes at the part-time department of the institute (he trained to be a doctor) Alexander decided to call on his parents as he had some extra hours. Going back to the hostel, he lived in with his wife and son, was not a brilliant idea because of this was far away. He thought to spend these hours at his father"s place to have a breakfast and rest a bit. Besides he was confused. He wished he had a way out of every difficulty. That evening Alexander would have to answer one serious question. He would have words with his chief.
   Alexander"s father"s house was one of the biggest in their mining village situated near the city. This was a sturdy log construction seen from a distance. Looking at this strong house everybody could imagine people lived in to be hard-working. For sure the house had an industrious head. The family was considerable but it could have more members if four kids of seven hadn"t been dead. Alexander"s father worked as a mine surveyor but before he had been a devil for haulage and coal-face work. Alexander"s mother was always busy with household duties. Last years the family was in prosper but before had happened very often in poverty.
   Alexander brushed his felt boots by the broom, entered the lobby, took them off, and stepped over the large room.
  "Hey, Sansha is comin" here!" Alexander"s uncle opened his eyes after dozing at the stove.
  "Morning, Pronya!" said Alexander. " Dad is at home?"
  "I"m just waitin" for him. Kostya went to the store to buy kerosene and some vodka to drink... I"m hurtin" and my blood is freezin". Need some "changes"."
  Old Pronya was father"s elder brother. He didn"t go out very often. He all year round put on the felt boots and sleeveless sheepskin jacket. As the years went by he often felt frozen. Alexander"s uncle had difficult life. In Turukhansk* together with his wife he was in exile. At the beginning of the fifties she was dead. Old Pronya got too senile and couldn"t do anything without somebody"s help, that"s why he was let to be free. He had got three sons but nobody of them was alive because they had been killed in the war*. Pronya"s house was confiscated and no other place to live in. Alexander"s father found Pronya and made one feather-bed for him; gave some clothes. And said to all relatives Pronya should be of respect for everybody. Age gap between brothers was essential - 20 years. For this period of time new eight babies were born but just two of them survived - the eldest and the youngest. In summer uncle Pronya liked sitting at the bench near the gates folding his arms. The whole day till sunset he was dozing. Day after day right in the sun Pronya sat motionlessly and thought over something. Sometimes the wind made his hair flutter and stirred grey beard. If anybody played a joke on him: "Father? You"re frozen?" he smiled ironically. "But no sweat!"
  "How are ya feelin", Sansha? Something new?" he didn"t take a lively interest in Alexander"s life but to keep up the conversation.
  "No news. One more year for studies! I wish I were a graduate now!"
  "Time flies. Before ya know where ya are a doctor. Ya"ll cure me. Get more?"
  "One thing I"ve got. Is it good or bad? Don"t know how to say. I"m suggested to join the Communist Party*. The head of a faculty insists on this idea. Ya know I"m a laboratory assistant on a half rate of wages now. The institute should train personnel. To admit one professor is equal to admit three assistants. I"m one of the most suitable people for the Communist Party: I had service in the army, worked for mining industry, I"m a good sportsman."
  "Sayin" to join the Communist Party? They want ya to become a Bolshevik*? Strange! Really ya are a suitable guy? Your father was convicted but I was a kulak*. Quite good enemies for all."
  "Hey, Pronya! The spirit of the age is different. Stalin* is dead and there"s no bringing back to the past. The Party is born anew."
  "Aha! Is it really born anew?" Pronya was sad. "Ya would like to be born anew like the Party?"
  "I want to have a talk to Dad."
  "All right, all right... Why not? You should be nice to elders. How" d we do many years ago? I was in my forties but my father could strike me by knout if I tried to say another opinion about something. He was a harsh person. He could knock young bull down without any groaning. He lifted a vehicle to change the rear wheel. See it! Today no such people."
  Pronya fell into a doze snuffling. Alexander was quiet not to be on the way of Pronya"s dreams. In the stove birch logs were firing, wall clock meausured time but chimney had wailing. Silence reigned in the house making Alexander fall into a doze like his uncle did. Time seemed to stop forever.
  Suddenly entrence door banged and strouded by cold air Alexander"s father burst into the room. He turned red due to hard frost.
  "Morning, Dad!" Alexander was glad to see him.
  "How are ya, chap? OK, y"re here to go and see us... Let"s drink a bit and have a snack. Mom will be in some minutes, she"ll lay the table. I called her."
  "Thanks for something to eat, but no drink. I"m going to the institute."
  "Yeah, I see! Studies! But studies are useless to have real comfort in life!"
  Pronya awakened after dreams and wondered.
  "How" bout drinks, Konstantin?"
  "Here, take this! No kerosene today, "cause wasn"t delivered. No life at all! Vodka is at any place but kerosene or meat, or butter - no place. Buying bread means a bread-line. Milk and soured cream are like water. The Soviet government has taken care of us. I"ve had enough! Everythting is in the bins as today papers say. But where are these bins? Anybody knows? The Communists guzzled food! Out! When had another government, we lived better and had a good meal."
  "Hey, Konstantin! Sanka is recruited. To the Communist Party. He wants ya to give him an advice how to be."
  "Really?" Alexander"s father was amazed. " Ya join the Communist Party?"
  "We"ve got no other! I"m suggested. As a matter of fact I"m confused," said Alexander.
  "Take your seat, Sanya. No a grain of truth at the foot. Pronya, join us. Wife will come soon and start grumblin" at us. Let"s go quicker. No she as yet we"ll finish drinkin". And the other one bottle - after that . I"ve bought one more instead of kerosene. Sanka, cut some lard, bread, and onion. Well done! Treat! Pronya, let"s recall our parents; "cause ya reopened ole sores by your questions! Dislike answerin", like askin" them..."
  The old men had a drop of vodka to their pleasure. While eating they thought over something.
  "I say! Sansha! I had hard life. I suffered a great deal. I have been workin" morning, noon and night. And never heart-to-heart talk. Y" almost twenty six years old. Y" a big boy, have got your own way of thinkin". But get to the heart of the matter - the old man"s ideas about life. Ya must join this damned Communist Party, "cause ya"ll be in a tight corner or naa progress at all," father set Sanka in the right way.
  "Exactly! Yeah! The chiefs say he has a suitable account of his life. Exiled and convicted relatives! How do ya like? They are greately taken with him," at last the uncle found his tongue wiping his eyes.
  "To be, or not to be: that is the question...* Remember? Make up your mind! Who knows how many years this ganster-like government will last? Maybe for a long time! Forty five years is been today. Why is it in power? Bloodshed and death! They forced their ideas upon us. We"ve never had any free time to tellya our family"s history: first you were too little, then army, mine work as well as studies. The history, ya know, is interesting and... tragic. Got you a few hours to listen to me?"
  "Yes, for sure, I"ve got five hours before lectures start. My son is in the kindergarten, my wife went to work. I can stay here and then go to the institute," answered Alexander.
  "To the lecture. Hey! Let"s have, Pronya, another drink. Now I"ll tellya our family history."
  Two brothers drank at a gulp again and ate with unequal pieces of bread and thick slices of lard. The father continued.
  "Before the October Revolution* our parents lived in Taradanovo*, small village situated in the Kemerovo region*. For more than one hundred years till that moment all relatives had been peasants. My father Martemian, grandfather Trofim and great-grandfather, and great-greatgrandfather Safon. Everybody was a peasant. There"s a trouble ahead! "Red disaster"*! First everything was OK. The White Guards* and the Red Guards* showed up just in large cities and near the railway junctions. They were at war with each other without any concern of us. We didn"t require anything. No matter who was in charge: the tzar*, Kerensky*, or the Bolsheviks. We had got a lot of soil to cultivate. Anyone could do it with all his might. Abstinent peasants always lived on their own earnings. But for sure we had got such guys who were here t"day, gone tomorrow. How" bout them? They were good-for-nothing drunkards and lazy-bones. My father owned a lot of soil to cultivate. Nobody could go all round the territory we lived. Three barns were full of grain-crops. This was like a stock of sowing and flour seeds. Look here! Wagon-loads of grain-crops were to be on sale. He took them to the market all winter long. The carts were never tared but honeyed, " cause this sweet sticky yellowish substance made by bees from nectar was in great amount. There were fifty beehives to get pure honey. He did this with pleasure! And he had to save tar bought at the market. My father got ten horses, two of which were just for turn-out; twenty cows, bulls, about thirty pigs... Chickens, geese, and ducks were never counted. Why did we have to count our poultry?
  But troubles came. The government had special ideas about Russian food programme. The soldiers took everything they liked in the house. Some time had elapsed, since then we made a new fortune. But disasters come treadin" on each other"s heels! The detachments arrested our house and all we owned to tax. My father paid some money; after two months they went to collect taxes again. We paid every whit to Bolsheviks. These blood-suckers were real gross feeders! They made out a list of kulaks and just all the rich. We were one of the first there. That"s were the shoe pinches.
  One fine day military force went to our village. They encircled all the houses and started making havoc. They were from troops of special type. The village had about one thousand homesteads, that"s why from A to Z going around the village meant getting tired. The third part of all farmers were classified as kulaks. The soldiers turned the peasants out to escort them to the ravine. The others were to pack everything they needed in a half an hour.
  The soldiers rounded up all women and children from the list to the edge of the village. The peasants couldn"t take a lot with them. No time for clothes, cattle, and utensils! All things went for nothing. Two stunted Red Army* men with guns entered our house: one of them stood in the center watching around, the other started pushing the children out. My mom wanted to take the cast-iron pot full of potato but the soldiers didn"t allow to do it. They turned us out of doors empty-handed. The Red Army men cut off one hundred male peasants who were the greatest talkers at meetings to proclaim them the active men behind the scences refused to obey. The soldiers took them down and fired quicker than one could wink.
  All the others - women, grandparents, and children - were driven to the city direction. They were taken to the river bank to wait for the barge. In late autumn the grass was coated with ice, the wind sprang up. First it was rainin" then the road was powdered with snow. Early frosts happened at night. Many ole men and children got a cold. Nothing to eat caused mass starvation. People were gathered round by soldiers with guns. Nobody could go home to take some food or clothes. The peasants eat all the grass. In three days the barge arrived to drive people as cattle to some place no one knew where. On the bank one could find tens of frozen to death ole men and children. Travelling on the barge my youngest son, Anton, died.
  We were conveyed to Siberia*. To Narym*. People usually have got a reason for speaking there are limits to everything. We were exiled to Nadym to start a new life. But how to set up house? This was really neglected place where you could find a few peasants" houses situating on the marshy area. It can be helped! We felled some trees, sawed trunks to have planks for building a house. We began making it homelike. But suddenly the authorities came as if thunder out of cloudless sky. These were the guys from the Cheka*. They turned us out of our shacks again. That was the end of good life! Early in the morning the soldiers drove all the exiled people along the bank of the Tom river*. Such a long way off! We trudged to the cold region leaving on the sand weakened men from the same village. This new settlement held just a half of all convicts. A lot of children, women, and ole men were dead on the way to Nadym because of beein" feeble. Some chief told us a place for dwelling. This was one more god-forsaken and fetid spot. My father and me made a dug-out* to cover it by planks. Hardly had we built a construction to live in when my elder son, Ivan died. He was just ten, too little to survive hunger, cold weather, damp, and pain.
  A year passed. My father took me aside one day. He said to me to break away or I could have been dead. He was sure if I settled down, I would be able to help them outa that difficulty. All"s well that ends well! I broke away. I was walkin" day and night. Got tired I spent my nights in the open staying in the haystack or gathering the leaves up to keep under cover. In the morning I felt my hair in hoar-frost and sheepskin coat frozen on the ground. I crept up without dropping in the villages. I just ate berries, mushrooms, and fish. One fine day I was gettin" frozen and became almost gaunt that"s why I had to come inna contact with people. I saw a man ploughing the soil to sow winter crops. I came to him to ask some bread. He gave me a hunch and said to stay under the cart. He wanted to go home to bring something to eat. But no such luck! He left me and in some minutes the militiamen* and a few armed people galloped to me. The forest was far away from me. I couldn"t run away. They seized me to take to the village. I was examined. They punched and kicked me then put under arrest inna the cold bath-house. I was lyin" close to the floor to listen to the chairman of the Village Soviet*, one militiaman, and other active workers. They sentenced me to be shot but couldn"t decide if to do it themselves or take me to the city prison. If the Cheka examined my actions and admitted me was guilty they would kill me.
  I was paralyzed with fear. I thought of my death! When they left I made my run to push the door but this was bolted. I flung myself about the room as a hunted animal. Then I got quiet and tried to think of my situation. I was still young about thirty as y" today. I longed for life! I glanced round the room... The high ceiling and walls were made of logs. No windows, plank floor! I crept under the bench and found the planks had been rotten. I was lucky that day! I tore three planks off to mole an underground passage. I scratched my fingers, broke off the nails but made a hole. I stripped to the skin to squeeze my way through it. Dirty, ragged, and hungry I thought that was the end of me. I ran to the forest. Wild animals were to a far greater extent kinder than people. I had to stay there. I saw wolves twice; fortunately they went off in different direction with leaving me alone. I had a miraculous escape! Thanks God!
  I went with no stopping all the day. Towards night I fell asleep on the ground, "cause I had become weak. Well, I moved without a respite; in the day-time I ate berries and mushrooms, at night I made my way to the southern parts of Siberia. I walked along the coppices on the cart-roads not to get lost in the unknown region and sink waist deep inna the marshes. But I was caught again as ill luck would have it! Those days the local peasant rebellion took place. They killed the whole detachment, fired some active guys from the Village Poor Committee*. The armed forces went to suppress the peasants. The military raid covered the nearest forest. If you got caught with guns, you would be shot down. I ran inna such surprise attack. There were two of them. One rode a horse, the other drove the cart*. Hailing me the rider fired a gun and galloped up. I couldn"t run away. I was only fifty steps distant and afraid of his firing. I thought it was all up with me... I hadn"t got any gun that"s why they didn"t wanna kill me at once. They made me sit in the cart to go to the prison. I wasn"t alone there. One more beaten with blood peasant was lyin" close to me. I asked him in whisper, "What"s up?" He answered me, "I hid some grain crops but the soldiers from the Cheka have found. Now I"m bein" transported to the prison."
  Oh, goddam! I wasn"t in luck at all! I heard the escorts whispering, "Look! This sonuvabitch has got boxcalf boots. He first might have killed an enlistment officer and then took them off. Let"s shoot him (he was talkin" about me!) and his boots will be ours."
  "OK," the other agreed "But who will shoot him? And who will have the boots?" They had a long argument. Eh! I was caught with my trousers down! They were sharing my boots, I thought. I said to my neighbour in a whisper, "Let"s run away. Or we"ll go for nothing! They"ll kill us!"
  But the peasant was too weak. He could hardly move. The soldiers might have beaten him hard. "I was told to be put under arrest but not to be fired, do it yourself," he answered with an effort.
  Here the cart proved to be opposite the willow-bed. I struggled to get free, rolled head over heels scratching myself badly, and jumped into the river. I am skilled, in 1924 I was a foot soldier in the Red Army. Nobody could beat me without firing a shot! The rider attacked me. He shot five times but missed. While the soldier was loadin" his gun clip of cartridges, I swam across the river and then took shelter in the bushes. They didn"t chase me, " cause got frightened to let the second captive go. The soldiers had made out the accompanying documents for the peasant but not for me. The officers didn"t have a faintest idea of me. The escorts wished they had my boxcalf boots.
  In short I kept outa the Cheka"s way again. Let them die! Success attended my efforts. One day getting frozen I came across the winter quarters, something like the forest warden"s hut. I got warm and recovered my wits. Then I dried the washing and had a good sleep. In that house I could find a little cireals, flour, and some pieces of dried bread. In three days came the hunter. I was in a fright; I thought he would kill me. Nope, he turned out to be a good guy. He gave me some meat. Then he led me to the railway through the forest. Thus I came back home. My relatives provided me with not long ago dead cousin"s passport. Fortunately I wasn"t got to the prison "Mariinskaya"*. I was lucky! But Pronya has been there. Tell him while I"m takin" my breath. I get tired speaking. I"d like to drink a bit."
  Alexander had a lump in his throat after his father"s words.
  Old Pronya opened his eyes, smoothed his moustache and beard, mumbled something, and became thoughtful. One tear slowly rolled down his cheek.
  "Sanka, I"ve experienced a lot. I suffered superhuman torments. I had been livin" on my own for ten years that moment the soldiers confiscated village food and clothes from the peasants. They arrested my house, cattle, and grain crops - everything I had. At home I"d got a couple of clear sheets of paper with the Village Soviet stamp. And here I decided to move to the city. A year I worked as a road builder. One man complained of his documents lack. He was a runaway. This caused a great deal of problem for him in the city. I signed some forged papers because wanted to help him. One evening we had a drinking session to celebrate his lucky fraud. But that man brought one more guy I didn"t know at all. My "friend" blabbed him my ideas about forged documents. Next day I was taken to the prison. That brudda-drinker informed against me. The preliminary investigator wanted me to give evidence: he pressed my hand to the door-post. Eh! Damn! He broke my four fingers. The investigator demanded me to sign the owning up honestly I followed Trotsky" views*.
  But I didn"t follow Trotsky"s views at all. I"d never heard of him before. What the devil! How much time I suffered? I"ve got no idea. Nothing. I bled in the lavatory "cause my kidneys hurt. They broke some of my ribs. I became weak! When they knocked needles into my finger-nails I couldn"t suffer more - I was ruined. I signed the record of examination. I wished I had been dead that moment. Any document but no violation! Trotsky"s views! Very well! Maybe that guy was a good one, who knows? I wanted my death to pall all my scores. But this wish was nowhere to be seen. I was convicted for five years to serve a sentence at Belomorkanal*. Oh! How much soil I carried on my wheel-barrow! Five years passed. One day I was driven to the prison-master to sign some paper. I did. He turned this over where I could read that I would be convicted for ten years more. OK! Thanks! I rumpled my hat and then set rolling my wheel-barrow again and working with pickaxe. I"ve never smoked but seeing cigarettes Belomor* now I could cry, my heart is wrung, and I clench my fists involuntarily.
   I came back home in 1947. Neither home nor family! My three sons were killed near Moscow in 1941. Where they were I"d got no the faintest idea. Their bodies shielded the Soviet leaders. They were the real soldiers? For sure, nope! They had got just one gun for three non-instructed guys but sometimes for five. They could hardly have been said to be the military men! Greatcoats didn"t make them to be good soldiers. Besides they knew just peasant work. The German tanks, I believed, stuck fast in the bodies of our Siberian guys. Oh! My wife died after the war. She hoped just one son of all three to come back home. After death notice for two sons the third one was considered to have been missed. But in 1944 we received the last death notice from the War Funeral Commission. She cried her eyes out then died my love. Next door people buried her. I was quite happy to be given shelter by my brudda I had returned home, "cause I could have died like some beggar under some bridge. My position was as if I were an enemy of the people with no means of livelihood; no home, no sons, no wife." Old Pronya had one more tear slowly rolling down his lined cheek but from the other eye.
   Alexander"s father and uncle were heavy at heart. Konstantin poured some more vodka and they drank out without saying a word.
  "Listen to me, son, I"ll tell ya further," Alexander"s father continued. "I gotta Kemerovo and kept from anybody"s eyes at my relatives" house exactly at the attic. I couldn"t stay there for all my life! They had my middle brother"s documents who had awreddy been dead. I was lucky to have the passport and everything I needed. My relatives didn"t burn them. These documents helped me to work for the building company concerned with railway "Abakan-Taishet"*. Pick-axe, shovel, tray, wheel-barrow! My hands tossed a great amount of soil from side to side. What could I do? How to live? I went to the village in a secret way to take my wife and parents away. But it didn"t happen. My family was dyin" of starvation. All things were sold off in other villages. We had no vegetables grown in the kitchen garden. We ate all up long time ago. I just took my wife, "cause parents couldn"t go, lying flat on their backs they were sick. They were let out later. My parents wandered about Siberia but didn"t reach home. We"ve got no idear where they laid down their lives... somewhere in a strange land, prob" ly. Frankly speaking we hadn"t got a house but the Village Soviet instead of. Some guys stole all ruined house-keeping things.
  I started working for the Soviet government as a mine line builder. One day being as drunk as the devil I opened my heart to new friends and told about my forged papers I had. I was informed against. We"ve got a lot of masters at reporting secret facts! I worked that day when one representative guy went my home but didn"t find me then started examining my wife. She grasped the point just at the moment, she whipped my real passport out the hiding-place and put away this under the skirt. She flung the document to be burnt in the stove but the militiaman being quick in the upstake caught this passport blackened with fire. He was lucky! My wife was brought to prison and after work I was forced there as she did. I pleaded guilty. I was really a runaway in exile. The document was of my dead middle brudda not killed one. What to do? This was impossible to take me again to Nadym. There were quite suitable convict colonies nearby. I found my new position in Osinniki* as a mine worker. Lucky again! The place was a pit fenced in barbed wire and small mining houses and dug-outs surrounded it. I worked up to the collar, " cause didn"t wanna be prisoned to the Far North*. No matter how much ya did, prisoning was the subject of concern for many people that time.
  We were terrified of soldiers coming and arresting us. In 1934 Kirov* was killed and all bein" in privation were driven together to the mine convoyed by soldiers. We had to be registered in the commandant"s office. We built a new dug-out to live in. First daughter was born, then son, and at last you, Sanya. If you remember, we had one more boy but he died during the war. The first son Foma died in 1937.
  And now about that terrible year - 1937. The observation towers were set in every corner and barbed wire was put up in two lines. In prison guys came from all parts of our country. We were called "Sibulagtsy", that meant we were under Siberian Prison Board"s control. All and sundry lived in this way till 1955. We registered in the commandant"s office daily. Every guy got a blue sleevless sheepskin jacket, a blue cap, and blue trousers. Only in 1955 I gained at first the passport having taken into consideration the official document "Form 281"*. The Board struck me off the register.
  Then what one dreads started. The militiamen and emergency soldiers spread terror beyond measure. They could burst inna any house at any time they wanted. For example, late at night they could wake all to examine, after that scatter things, and leave. Sanya, ya began to walk but once such examination caused your catching cold and no walking at all. You took up walking again only in spring in half a year. Your brudda Foma died after pneumonia. How much people were caught, exiled, shot, left to rot in gaol! It"s terrific!"
   "Yeah, I know. Generals, scientists, Party leaders... This is in our history
   curriculum," the son tried to put in a remark.
  "Never talk stuff and nonsense! Generals were treated according to their deserts. Tukhachevsky, Blukher, Bukharin, Rykov* were killed and it served them right. They made this form of government which later helped them to be killed. How much blood we had in Russia caused by Bolsheviks! Nobody could draw it! I"m just talking about ordinary people: peasants, workers, miners!" Alexander"s father was angry. "Millions of unknown have been reported missing. This cockroach* pulled out people like weed and trampled them under foot.
  I was a noted miner, became the stakhanovite*, I worked from dawn till dark "cause I can"t do otherwise. Everybody wanted to get first prizes, to set up a record. The stakhanovites were of great number. There was no getting away from it. Free person could be a stakhanovite but not prisoned one. If any communist said he wanted to set up record five or six workers would help him to support something or haul. He was the advanced worker but we were no one. The good results were added to him. This was his record! In due course I wanted myself to be the champion of communist labour. I was strong and skilled guy. Everything was for the best. Your mom worked as a hauler, she hauled coal along the drifts to the loaders but I installed rigging and supported. After coal mining I usually went home. My working day lasted for twelve hours. We didn"t have any days off or holidays. No getting out! If you were late for ten minutes you wouldn"t be let in. Absence from work was fraught with more five years. Communists did everything they wanted.
  Once we couldn"t stop working a coal seam by the wall system. The edge had four metres. The support was broken down. We couldn"t solve this problem. One boy"s hand was pressed. He cried to me to cut his hand instead of covering by rock. I thought of my future years in prison if I cut his hand. Another guy helped me to tear Vaska"s hand out. Skinned, streched his tendon but saved hand (however he lost his hand some years later). That case was under investigation. Shift foreman was arrested after work like a saboteur. Butt to the teeth and voronok* takes you to prison. He came back home only in seventeen years after Stalin had died. You"d never recognize him! The danger was over for me.
  In 1940 the situation was of another way, lemme the commandant buid a house "cause I had an exemplary conduct. I forgot my hut. Constructed a big house. This was such a good design! Certificated the courses for foremen and became team-leader. Worked at loading for some time. If ya hadn"t loaded in time ya would have been a saboteur with next being prosecuted. All right! That moment I took all my free relatives to work at mining.
  Then the German attack started. I had got exemption "causeI had to mine coal necessary either for the army or manufactures. Damned war destroyed all my relatives. From prison a lot of guys were forced to front in 1941. Near Moscow they were at war with German tanks. Our middle brudda Mattew heard about the war and said: "Oh, I with Germans near Warsaw fought!" We approved of our sons" feat of arms. Aha! No fear! Guys were taken from their houses to make them deserted. Every day mothers received funeral letters. Inexperienced young guys couldn"t shoot or fight. Remember as today how the Sigitovs" son was walkin" in a rank and kickin" muddy clots. He was laughin". He"s no soldier!
  Matthew lost two sons but his third son Efim came back home without a leg. Disabled soldiers and wounded men were everywhere. Volobaev, our neighbour returned. Did he still cherish a faint hope? He was seriously ill. How he lived? God knows how! Frontel bone was absent - sharpnel wound.
  Frol, our cousin, was hemmed in all sides by fascists near Kiev together with the regiment. No cartridges, no high-explosive shells! Regiment commander issued an order to find our way out the Dnepr river* anyhow we could. Frol was taken prisoner. Look where fate has landed him! The former miner worked up to the collar in Poland, France, Belgium, even in Africa. Once he tole me he had made an unsuiatable detail then the Germans said to him: "Dig a grave for yourself!" The fascist stopped close by him then shot, then beat him by stick but let him start working again. Frol was lucky! The fascists felt sorry for him. But digging the grave he turned grey. In 1945 the Americans freed war prisoners be. My brudda was one of them. The Counter-Intelligence Service* considered him to be the betrayer "cause he hadn"t been dead in the German convict colony. The military tribunal* kindly sentenced him for fifteen years. That moment Frol was quite twenty-six year ole guy. For four years he was working for the fascists in prison. Then he was serving his sentence in the Far East* for more than ten years. After Beria"s* death he was free. Look! He was twenty-one that moment he started fighting at the front and he was quite thirty-five year old disabled soldier after prisoning. He had a bad stammer, while his body was shaking any time, his poor health caused his great sufferings and soon death.
  After the Victory Day* one more brudda, named Gerasim, came back home. Miracle survived him. He was blamed for making a plot against Stalin. Gerasim got ten years as a sentence. Why no more years? God knows! Maybe he was not enough young man... He signed all papers" cause of the needles droven under his finger-nails at one of the examinations. He came back home and soon departed from this life.
  I was crippted as the war had began but I could have been taken to the front. My matter was unlucky striking by pick-axe on a cap. This detonated! Broken hand and vertebra, one eye was cut by rock fragments. I was stayin" at home for one year I could hardly come back to life. You"re too young to remember this. No pension and doctor"s certificate! No money! Potato saved us. Since I had felt better I started working again but call me a coal-cutter? So the authorities lemme have studies for foremen when I got better.
  But tyranny was in flourishing state. My house stood on a high hillock. Nice place kept raining out. I got myself a cow, dug up potatoes of about a thousand buckets every year I mowed hay and had dozens of carts after good crop - somehow lived a full life. We had got two kids. It gladdened my heart and life was goin" on. One day I returned home but found a ruined place. The Emergency Committee soldiers took prisoned Germans to destroy the house, carry things out on snow-covered ground, my wife and kids stayed there. Good things never last forever! The authorities made up their minds to build a timber-yard. This could help to protect support from getting out of order.
  We didn"t have any place to live in and no food at all! We had to return to the hut. That"s how we lived! I thought ya and your sister to be sick again. As we were stayin" in prison dug-out, the murders used to burst inna our house to inspect papers. They used to enter, open the wide door, count all of us and then leave but make the dug-out cold. It was really winter! After such inspections ya couldn"t walk and took to your bed. Quite about a year ya could only creep. Ya were thought to be dead soon. Some years later we built a new house. Could anyone kill us? That"s all my happy life! Oh, Sanya, Sanya... OK, ya might be late for the lecture. Go! Together with brudda we"ll drink a bit to have no troubles in life!"
  He took breath and said to Alexander, "Join the Party, you"re right, boy, but never forget misfortune our relatives had!"
   Alexander finished drinking tea, said goodbye to the old men and went to the institute. It was getting cold. His eyes were streaming with tears which might have been the result of wounded feelings after the story of his parents" hard lives and stressful childhood.
  Konstantin was of disability pension age in 1959. After he had bought a new car "Moskvitch - 403" he decided to go and see his village. Taradanovo went to rack and ruin. The wind was driving dust in the empty streets. The houses were leaning over and became embedded in the ground with boarded windows. Despite the roads looked like a sea of mud he reached the father"s house. There he found the Village Soviet. At the gates one man was sitting on the bench, he had ragged trousers and greasy threadbare shirt. This was the former Village Soviet chairman Frolov. Old enemies got to know each other at once. Frolov scowled at the shapely figure and said with grief, "Oh, Kostya, mother fucker! You"re having as many lives as a cat! We took all your things away but y" in easy circumstances. You"ve got a car but I"m in rags and my pension is enough to make a cat laugh. Is life just?"
  p. 1
  Turukhansk - town in Krasnoyarsk Krai (=region), Far North, Russia.
  war (= the Great Patriotic War) - term used in Russia and some other states of the former Soviet Union to describe the war of 1941 to 1945 between Nazi Germany and its Axis allies and the Soviet Union.
  p. 2
  the Communist Party - a single official ruling political party of the former Soviet Union.
  Bolshevik - a member of the socialist group which supported the Russian revolution in 1917 and became the Russian Communist Party in 1918.
  kulak - a very reach peasant.
  Stalin - Joseph Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Unoin"s Central Committee since 1922 till his death in 1953. During that time he established the regime now known as Stalinism. He gradually consolidated power and became de facto party leader and dictator of the Soviet Union.
  p. 3
  To be or not to be: that is the question ... - the famous line from "Hamlet" - world-known tragedy by the English dramatist William Shakespeare.
  the October Revolution (=the Great October Socialist Revolution) - refers to a revolution traditionally dated to November 7, 1917. The October Revolution overthrew the Russian Provisional Government and gave the power to the Soviets dominated by Bolsheviks.
  the Kemerovo region - territory situated in Siberia, Russia.
  p. 4
  "Red disaster" - new Soviet government after the October Revolution in 1917 caused great changes in Russian society.
  the White Guards - regiments whose original duty was to protect the Russian emperor.
  the Red Guards - regiments whose original duty was to protect the Soviet government.
  tzar - the title of the former emperor of Russia.
  Kerensky - Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky served as the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government till the Great October Socialist Revolution.
  Red Army - the armed force first organized by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War in 1918 and, in 1922, became the army of the Soviet Union.
  p. 5
  Siberia - the name given to the vast region constituting almost all of Northern Asia and for the most part currently serving as the massive central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, having served in the same capacity previously for the USSR since its beginning and the Russian Empire beginning in the 16th century.
  Narym - town in Yamalo-Nenetsk autonomous okrug (=district), Far North, Russia.
  the Cheka - the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations. It was created by a decree issued on December 20, 1917, by Vladimir Lenin and subsequently led by an aristocrat turned communist Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky. It was soon an important military service, crucial for survival of the Soviet regime.. These troops policed labor camps, ran the Gulag system, conducted requisitions of food, put down peasant rebellions, riots by workers, and mutinies in the Red Army, which was plagued by desertions.
  dug-out - a rough covered shelter, usually for soldiers, made by digging in the earth.
  militiamen - member s of a trained military force whose members do not belong to a regular army but operate like one, especially to defend their country in an emergency.
  the Village Soviet - an elected local council in the former USSR.
  the Village Poor Committee - these committees dealt with governmental program in Russian which obliged peasantry to surrender the surpluses of almost any kind of agricultural production for a fixed price. The absolute limit of a given product for personal or household needs was pre-determined by the state.
  cart - a vehicle with two or four wheels but no engine, used for carrying loads and usually pulled by a horse.
  prison "Mariinskaya" - prison situated in the town Mariinsk, the Kemerovo region, Siberia.
  Trotsky"s views - Leon Trotsky was a Russian revolutionary and Marxist theorist. He was one of the leaders of the Great October Socialist Revolution, second only to Lenin. During the early days of the Soviet Union, he served first at People"s Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army.
  Belomorkanal - the White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal is a ship canal that joins the White Sea and the Baltic Sea near St. Petersburg. During its construction a lot of people died.
  p. 9
  Osinniki - town in the Kemerovo region, Siberia.
  the Far North - the part of Russia that lies further north than other parts.
  Kirov - a prominent earlyBolshevik leader whose assassination occurred at the beginning of the Great Purge, the final dismissal of Joseph Stalin"s enemies and all remaining Old Bolsheviks from the Soviet government.
  official document "Form 281" - this document was of great importance for convicts to have a passport and live like free people.
  p. 10
  Tukhachevsky, Blukher, Bukharin, Rykov - Soviet military leaders.
  This cockroach - bad name of J. Stalin.
  stakhanovite - the Stakhanovite movement began during the second 5-year plan in 1935 as a new stage of the socialist competition. The Stakhanovite movement was named after Alexei Stakhanov who had mined 102 tons of coal in less than 6 hours (14 times his quata).
  voronok - black wagon for prisoners.
  p. 11
  the Dnepr river - large river in the Ukraine.
  The Counter-Intelligence Service - an organization intended to prevent an enemy country from finding out one"s secrets, for example, by giving them false information.
  military tribunal - a kind of military court designed to try members of enemy forces during war time, operating outside the scope of conventional criminal and civil matters. The judges are military officers and fulfill the role of jurors.
  the Far East - term that refers to the Russian part of the Far East, i.e. extreme east parts of Russia, between Siberia and the Pacific Ocean.
  Beria - Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria was a Soviet politicia, chief of the Soviet security and secret police apparatus under Stalin.
  the Victory Day - marks the end of World War II in Europe, specifically the capitulation of Nazi forces to the Allies. This day is celebrated on May 9.
  awreddy = already
  brudda = brother
  comin" = coming ( like reduced ending "g" in other verbs)
  how "bout = how about
  idear = idea
  inna = into
  lemme = let me
  naa = no
  nope = no
  ole = old
  outa = out of
  prob"ly = probably
  sonuvabitch = son of a bitch
  t"day = today
  tellya = tell you
  tole = told
  wanna = want to
  y" = you (e.g., y"re)
  ya = you
  yeah = yes

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