A Long Return to Moscow

Автор: , 11 Ноя 2012

There was the hottest August 1944. The war was coming to an end. Rare newspapers which we could get in the village reported victories of the Red Army. Our German-occupied towns and villages had already been released. Military action removed from Russia to Eastern Europe, a short time left till fall of Berlin. Meanwhile, severe battles continued. In Proshkino, life has not changed. Only the elderly more often talked about victory, about Germans, which soon will be revenged by Lord!

Zinochka, visiting the district town, heard that the flow of evacuated refugees started coming back to their homes. But it was allowed for them to leave only with special identification cards – some sort of permission or invitation to join the family that must be sent by survived relatives, husbands- former soldiers, survivors of war invalids. To get such badge to Moscow have been unthinkable. Ride the same without the badge was considered madness. Authority could just push out from the train and even arrest.

But Zinochka understood that if, they will not make this feat at any cost, they will stay here forever. And then the road to normal life, to education will be closed to her son. He will become a slave of Soviet power. He would not have a passport. This Jesuit fascist system invented by Communists since Stalin's collectivization, prohibited to issue passports to persons living in rural areas, in collective farms. Thus without passports adults and their children remain forever state slaves and did not have the right to go anywhere. Their work was, in fact, free, because instead of salary they received “labour days” – some point volume written in the book which depends on future harvest. Actually it means nothing. Rural people could not rely on salary and pension. State exploited them mercilessly.

The practice of calculation on “labour days” was a mockery. If collective farm fulfilled the state-plan that it was extremely rare, collective farmers got pathetic miserable remnants of, for example, 20-30 grams of flour per ‘labourday’. If collective farm couldn't pass the underlying rule of state- plan, the peasants remained with zero. And live as you want, and work from morning to night! That is why all rushed in the city. But without a passport it’s impossible!

And beyond that serfdom for peasants was much safer. The Squire at least paid and fed them for a job and not destroyed their peasant farms, since the Squire if he isn't fool or madman, interested in good farming peasants, or else he himself will perish.

They needed to make a decision. Zinocka explained everything to her son: on what risk they go, how hard will be on the road to Moscow, and how long it will take was unknown. Volodya, precocious and premature frail boy, agreed. And they began to prepare for departure. They cooked rye tortillas from the remaining rye flour. Salt, boiled potatoes, cucumbers were added. All the provisions were laid down in the bag, using rope tied it to the back. In the cotton blanket rolled felt boots (valenki), Volodya’s sheepskin coat – the gift of old Nikon, mother’s coat, gloves. The villagers gathered some money for them, as much as one could.

Day of departure came-August 27, 1944. The entire village came out to say a farewell. Mother bowed to society and thanked them for shelter, for bread and salt. The village loved Zinocka for kindness, selflessness. She healed the children, and elderly people, helped always as she could. For everyone, she reserved a kind word. There was a silence for a moment. Then old Efrosinya Ivanovna wept, lamenting, then crossed Zinocka with Volodya. Mother cried and embraced her. Old Nikon, standing close to the cart-horse, was waiting for them in silence. Here they boarded in cart, and the horse went forward... After passing the ravine and the field they entered the forest ... and the village of Proshkino, as if suddenly shrank and seemed to Volodya smaller and smaller at the distance, and houses looked like the toys, but were still visible ... because stood on the low hill.

The forest stretched for many miles ahead and kept a lot of sounds and smells. It had been raining. Drops of rain sparkled on the pines and spruce trees, glittering on the sunlight and played with all the colors of the rainbow. Robin twittered, somewhere in the thicket a wood-grouse took wing. Evening was approaching. They got to the station at the sunset. Mother bought tickets to Chelyabinsk. Old Nikon embraced Volodya and pulled from inside his shirt a big apple and a cane-whistle. Volodya hugged an old man. Then they kept silence ... Nikon crossed them and helped them to ascend in the railway carriage. Steam locomotive train whistled, twitched... and has gathered the speed. Volodya looked out from the window giving a wave ... Grandfather Nikon wiped his eyes by the sleeve and was going after the moving train ... Finally, he stopped ... The station became floating away and disappeared during the turn. They began their long journey home, to Moscow.

To Chelyabinsk they arrived without adventures. But suddenly they stuck in Chelyabinsk. Here it was impossible to take any train without badge-invitation. There were almost no passenger trains. There went only freight-trains and military echelons with equipment and manpower. New replenishments sent forward to the front, and back - wounded and demobilized soldiers. Zinochka went to the station chief, pleaded and begged him to help ... It was useless. For three days as they were sleeping at the station ... When the railway police verification checked the passengers they had to hide. Food was nearly over. On the fourth day, they woke up in the night by police patrol.

Volodya slept on the railway station bench, curling up, slumbering mother sitting. Volodya remembered the red fat face of the Sergeant in raspberry-colour service cap, a good overcoat, with holster on his side. Mother justified before him, and he looked over her passport and something shouted, particularly remembered the words: "Not supposed to! Free the room! " - His mother cried. Volodya began to comfort her. "Well, we spend the night on the street?" — desperately cried his mother. Suddenly there came a Lieutenant, together with two soldiers. He stands up for them. Volodya remembered his face. Pale, almost white as snow ... and a huge scar across his left cheek. He yelled at the Sergeant.

Then they were left alone. Lieutenant talked to his mother and promised to help her to set her in their troop train. The troops were driving from hospital demobilized, decommissioned totally. Lieutenant lived in Orel. "You see, the world is not without good people!" said the mother and spent one more night at the station. At six in the morning, with the help of Lieutenant, they have gone further.

They were travelling almost two days more, the train often stood with long intervals. Ural left behind. Finally, they got to the big hub station ... From here the path becomes particularly difficult, massive tests began. Military patrol pushed them off the train. Lieutenant sad smiled and took out from his backpack cans of stewed meat and dried bread, giving it to Volodya.

They remember this station very good. Spending more than three days there and not being able to get even at freight- train, Zinochka decided to reach the nearest large village, where they had hoped to ride out and help his son. Volodya suddenly fell ill. First it was cold. Then high fever, cough. Mother listened his breast and realized it was pneumonia. From first aid kits in Proshkino she captured the red streptocid, aspirin and iodine. She had nothing more, and indeed such medicines were considered a great luxury.

On a small truck, they got to large village Petrishchevo. Here was a collective farm named by Stalin. Zinochka found the Chairman of the farm and the proposed to open rural hospital or dispensary, Chairman Stepan was a smart guy, without the left leg. He walked on a wooden leg and wore the Order of Glory. Zinochka was quartered in a good house which hostess was a woman-soldier, Anna Kuzminichna, the book-keeper of a collective farm now. Her husband fought on the war and son, fifteen years old Pashka, helped at the household. Zinochka liked the house, and the hostess was good-natured. They were given a corner room with windows looked out on the garden.

Volodya’s disease became worse. Mother took care of him days and nights. The crisis has passed, the boy felt better. In the village, they opened a dispensary. The Chairman gave to Zinochka 8 kg of rye flour, two sacks of potatoes and authorized to issue the collective farm’s half-liter of milk per week until her son is sick. Mother’s work was recorded in “labour days”.

It was late autumn, November. It was long period of heavy rains. Impassability of roads, bare forest. Volodya was feeling ill. He lost weight, his face pale and was tormented by cough at night. Anna Kuzminichna long sighed, looking at him, then went to a relative at a beehive and brought small pots of honey and internal fat. Volodya was rubbed before bedtime with this fat and she gave him drink fat and honey.

December came. Zinochka decided to spent winter with his son here in Petrishevo. There was a lot of work in the clinic, they brought patients from neighbouring villages. They opened a rural hospital at fifteen beds. Medical staff consisted of Zinochka and three old nurses, all worked for "labour days" hoping for a good harvest. Winter of a new year 1945 was snowy.

Volodya became friends with Pashka. He was good-natured hard working clumsy guy. Messed around a kitchen garden, often at the request of the Chairman went to work in the field and at the collective farm. Anna Kuzminichna had different cattle: steer, heifer, three chicken, one cock, two ducks, cat and dog. This was considered a good privately owned farm. Heifer is growing and will soon be a cow. They often listened to a radio. Soviet troops moved to Berlin, soon victory was expected.

At the New Year eve they gathered all together. Anna Kuzminichna, Pashka and Zinochka with Volodya cut down the fir-tree. Volodya made Christmas tree ornaments, toys and small flags using multi-coloured paper and old magazines. The can of stewed meat was on the table, boiled potato, salted cucumbers, brined apples and home-vine. Nobody could see such a delicious food for a long time.

Spring came early. In March, brooks ran on village streets. Sun shone brighter and warmer. Forest still was standing in deep snow ... but in April began snow melting. "April, April rings with falling drops ..." — remembered Volodya the song, when he saw the icicles in the yard. He was asking his mother, is it not time for them to come home to Moscow. Mother answered joking –“ We have enough time, Moscow won’t run from us”.

April cried and cried with last year's snow ... And then May came into rights. Buds swelled and burst, the first leaves appeared, and grass here and there grew greener. The rooks have arrived first and walked on ploughed fields looking for worms. The starlings had been expected next to come. Pashka helped Volodya to make a birdhouse, and they fixed it on a large Birch tree in the garden.

Anna Kuzminichna tried to convince Zinocka not to leave until August. They will yield the harvest and something shall be given for their "labour-days." The mother did not consent and would like to go at the end of May. Then Anna Kuzminichna suggested that she should leave Volodya there. Through the summer he should become stronger, the cow will give milk ... and then mother will come back for him. Volodya heard this conversation through a thin bulkhead and loudly cried, and rushed into the room to the mother: "Don't leave me here", he was gulping with sobs bitterly. Mother gave him a hug, and they together with Anna Kuzminichna began to comfort and assure that Mommy never separate with him.

And here again the new start on the way home. Zinochka has waited when they sent paramedic from the district town. Bid farewell to the Chairman Ivan Stepanovich. She collected by common efforts food for the road, potatoes, bread, pickles, some amount of millet cereals. On the 8th of May Volodya, feeling happy, asleep. And in the morning the radio announced the end of the war. All people in the village went mad from this news first and first were silent. And all of a sudden joy, screams, congratulations, tears — all had become to them together. On May 9, 1945, all long-suffering bleeding Russia and darkened with grief celebrated victory day on its ashes.

At the 10th of May Zinochka with her son were brought on the truck to the city station, and they safely boarded the train. It was no more check patrol until Moscow. In Moscow, their passports with former stamp of Moscow registration saved the situation. They were on their land, the sacred land of their ancestors. From the square of the three railway-stations — Kazan, Yaroslavl and Leningrad —they walked up to the Sretenka street.

Moscow seemed to Volodya amazingly beautiful. That's a big Sukharevsky lane, building #18, Zinochka’s heart fell, she was afraid to see bomb-pitted the backbone of the home ... But, thank God! The house turned out to be safe. With sinking hearts, they climbed the staircase to the third floor and… mother opened the door with her own key...

The apartment was empty. In their big room stood only old oil-cloth sofa with protruding springs, two Vienna chairs and iron furnace-stove with a chimney in the pane. Zinochka fell on his knees and wept. Then she began to pray and give thanks to God and looked at the place in the corner where earlier icon hung.

It was 12 of May, 1945. Volodya remembered this day forever.

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