DISCUSSION FORUMS
MAIN MENU
Home
Help
Advanced Search
Recent Posts
Site Statistics
Who's Online
Forum Rules
Bible Resources
• Bible Study Aids
• Bible Devotionals
• Audio Sermons
Community
• ChristiansUnite Blogs
• Christian Forums
• Facebook Apps
Web Search
• Christian Family Sites
• Top Christian Sites
• Christian RSS Feeds
Family Life
• Christian Finance
• ChristiansUnite KIDS
Shop
• Christian Magazines
• Christian Book Store
Read
• Christian News
• Christian Columns
• Christian Song Lyrics
• Christian Mailing Lists
Connect
• Christian Singles
• Christian Classifieds
Graphics
• Free Christian Clipart
• Christian Wallpaper
Fun Stuff
• Clean Christian Jokes
• Bible Trivia Quiz
• Online Video Games
• Bible Crosswords
Webmasters
• Christian Guestbooks
• Banner Exchange
• Dynamic Content

Subscribe to our Free Newsletter.
Enter your email address:

ChristiansUnite
Forums
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
July 12, 2014, 08:35:15 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
ADVERTISING reported to STOP FORUM SPAM and deleted immediately!
271237 Posts in 25370 Topics by 3790 Members
Latest Member: Goodwin
* Home Help Search Login Register
+  ChristiansUnite Forums
|-+  Entertainment
| |-+  Books (Moderator: admin)
| | |-+  The Persecutor
« previous next »
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 5 Go Down Print
Author Topic: The Persecutor  (Read 8869 times)
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« on: September 27, 2006, 01:37:35 PM »

A story that reminds me somewhat of Paul the Apostle.

The Persecutor  1973  Sergei Kourdakov
Inflicting terror and suffering upon Russian Christians was his assignment, and he did his job well.

Storm on the Pacific

   For several days and nights our ship had been fighting its way through a violently convulsed Pacific Ocean. The storm had started abruptly when a freezing gale out of the north had collided with a cyclone-bearing blast of warm air flowing from Japan. The air masses had exploded in a fury of wind and wave, with us caught in the center, off the Canadian coast. Though our ship, the Russian trawler Elagin, was large and built to ride out the wildest storm, it had, for some sixty hours, bobbed about as if it were no more than a fisherman's skiff on that angry sea.

   Many of the most seasoned sailors aboard were sick, because of the unusual circular motion of the storm that kept battering the mountains of British Columbia, then bouncing back to sea in an unbroken circle. After days of such punishment, the trawler, like its crew, was tired. It creaked and groaned, struggled, strained, and pulled wearily. Even in the radio room, specially built with noise-killing insulation, I could feel the vessel's great mechanical pulse, as every part of the machine seemed to fight the storm's violence.

   I had slept very little during the previous few days. My job as radio operator was to transmit data back to our naval base in the Soviet Union, and the storm had kept me almost constantly on duty. The tempest outside, though, contributed far less to my discomfort than did the emotional storm within me. After months of cautious planning and preparation, I was at last nearing the time for my escape to freedom. Inside Canada's coastal waters, which we had asked permission to enter to ride out the storm, I was fearfully close to my goal. I anxiously awaited my opportunity to flee.

   The bow of the ship dipped beneath the mountainous waves, then rose again and again. The whole ship shuddered from the impact of the waves. The night, normally inky dark, was even blacker under the heavy storm clouds. Seafaring men spoke of such a night with fear. This was the night of September 3, 1971. Ten of the Soviet vessels as well as my ship had received permission to ride out the storm inside Tasu Sound, on Queen Charlotte Island.

   Just before half-past eight that evening, the time I was to report for duty in the radio room, I stepped out of my quarters and was almost doubled over by the force of the storm. It took all my strength to inch my way along the slippery deck. Finally I reached the bridge, flung open the door, and burst in.

   "How far are we from shore?" I asked my friend Boris, who was on duty at the helm.

   He checked his chart. "About a half-mile," he replied.

   "How far to that village?" I asked pointing out lights barely visible through the driving rain and wind.

   "About three and a half miles," he replied.

   "Thanks," I muttered, moving on to my post in the radio room just behind the bridge. Now that we were inside Canada's waters, we were not to transmit; so all I had to do was check on any of our other ships in distress. It would be a short turn of duty tonight, and I was very glad.

   A glance at my watch showed me it was 8:30 P.M. Sergei, in a few hours you might be free or you might be drowned. Or you could be worse than drowned - picked out of the water and taken back to a Siberian labor camp as a naval deserter, then eventually shot. It was a time when anyone in my spot would have second thoughts.

   Here I was, Sergei Kourdakov, a second lieutenant cadet officer in the Russian Navy, a decorated Communist youth leader, chosen the head of every Communist youth organization in every school I had been in since I was eight years old, chosen the Communist youth leader in charge of teaching communism to twelve hundred Soviet naval cadets. In five days I was scheduled to head back to the naval base, where I would be admitted to full membership in the Communist party and had a very good job with the Russian police waiting for me. To be completely practical, I had everything in the world to go back to Russia for. But it was not enough. Whatever it was that I needed, I knew I could not have it in the Communist system I had seen so much of.

   Three and a half miles, I mused, making some quick mental calculations. I would only be safe in the village itself. That had to be my goal. If I merely reached shore, a half-mile away, a search party could come and get me. Only the village and people would be safe. That meant it would take about an hour at most to reach the village. I had already checked the water temperature. It was about forty degrees Fahrenheit. This far north, time in the water would be a matter of life and death. I estimated that I could survive four hours at most in the cold seas. I was in excellent physical condition, due to regular exercises and workouts with weights. It's now or never, I told myself. I knew in my heart it would have to be now.

   The radio shack was between the steering house, at the most forward part of the bridge, and the map room, where the captain was on duty. Because of our nearness to shore, he was keeping close watch on our position to make sure we didn't get so far in toward shore that we could be caught on the jagged rocks that shielded the coastline.

   I turned three of the radar units on, one for military and two for navigational purposes, and waited for them to warm up. I was hoping there would be no interruptions, nothing out of the ordinary.

   But just at that moment, the captain stuck his head out of the map room and shouted to me, "Hey, Kourdakov, how about a game of chess?"

   We had played often while at sea. I didn't want to arouse his suspicions now by refusing his invitation, but I couldn't afford to lose the time. The complete darkness was safety and I must make it to shore before the skies brightened. Besides, I was afraid my resolve would disappear if I hesitated too long.

   "Comrade captain," I said, "I'm very tired from the long hours I put in these last few days. I think I'd rather rest. I'm just too tired."

   The captain made a big joke of it and said, "Listen to the young sea dog!" He laughed. "A three-day storm and he's too tired!"

   Inwardly, I sighed with relief. Then I began the final preparations I had gone over so often in my head. First I closed down the radio station, leaving the receiver on emergency frequency, in case other ships might try to reach us. I switched on the remote speaker to the bridge, so that incoming messages from other ships of our fleet could be heard by Boris up forward.

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2006, 01:37:56 PM »

   I looked around the radio room to make certain everything was in order, then quickly slipped out, locked the door behind me, and started back to my quarters, passing again through the steering room of the bridge, now dark except for the glow of red, yellow, and blue lights on the instrument console. The rain was crashing against the window of the bridge, making it impossible to see out. Boris was standing in the dim glow of the instrument lights, scanning them carefully for any sign of trouble from our overworked machinery. The two of us had passed many lonely hours of duty together these past few weeks. I paused for a few moments of idle talk with him, trying to seem as natural as possible, then excused myself as being dog-tired, and started off to my quarters.

   "Boris," I said when leaving, "if anyone calls don't interrupt me for a couple of hours not unless it's a great emergency. All right?"

   "Right, Sergei," he said and laughed. "Think of me up here, while you're tucked comfortably away in your nice warm bed."

   "Oh sure," I promised and left the bridge, stepping out onto the deck and into the storm. I grasped the rail with all my strength and moved cautiously toward my quarters. Again and again the driving wind and rain almost sent me sprawling across the heaving walkway. Pushing hard against the wind and wild spray, I reached my quarters. I opened the door, stepped inside, and locked it behind me. A surprise intrusion now could be fatal, ending any possibility for escape. Uneasily, I glanced at my watch again. It was now 9:45. I had less than fifteen minutes left for final preparation. The casual talk on the bridge had used up precious seconds. Now I had to move fast to make my moves during the few remaining minutes, while the deck was still deserted. The minute the storm let up, men would be all over the ship, checking for damage.

   Because of our northerly location I was wearing my heavyweight uniform my big military boots, a lighter-weight sweater, and, over it, a heavy turtleneck sweater. The weight and bulk of these clothes would create serious problems once I was in the water, trying to swim. But I wanted to walk into that village fully clothed and with my boots on. There was little time to think about even such important matters. There were others, more important, now.

   I reached under my bunk and pulled out something I had been working on for some time a large, waterproof, bag-like belt. I had made it out of heavy rubber for the outside and waterproof plastic for the inside. Reaching into my cabinet drawer, I took out the things I treasured most and planned to take with me: photos of friends, comrades, and familiar places back in Russia, none of which I would ever see again.

   These few cherished items would be all I carried with me out of the old life into the new, except scars physical and emotional and lots of memories.

   This is all I have to show for my life, I thought, looking at the little pile of papers. No mother or father. This little pile is my life. Many of the items would become meaningless my Komsomol membership card, my naval papers. Others, like my birth certificate, I must keep always. If I survived this night, I would need these documents to prove who I was. If I didn't, at least when my body was found there would be a name to go on the gravestone.

   Quickly then, after stuffing my papers and photos into the rubber belt, I sewed it tightly closed so the water couldn't get in. I fastened it securely around my waist, then reached into my drawer and pulled out something else that would be very important to me in the hours ahead: the skin-diver's knife which I had smuggled aboard and kept hidden. Strapping the knife tightly to my wrist, I pulled my sweater arm down over it to hide it. I needed to avoid all possible questions, should I be spotted on deck. The knife would be hard to explain, but it would be desperately important to me later on.

   Well, at last I'm ready. Knife in place, belt securely fastened. My watch now read 9:55, time to go. The storm had increased in intensity, which would protect me from being seen. Opening my cabin door, I stepped out onto the walkway and was stopped by a burst of freezing spray. Even here, partly sheltered in the sound, the storm was fierce.

   I bent into the wind and clambered down the ladder, holding desperately to the railing to keep from falling. Now down on the main deck, I looked around to see if I had been spotted. I saw no one. So far so good. I felt reasonably sure that everyone was below deck, staying out of the weather.

   Slowly I fought my way midship to the spot I had picked a few days before as the best jumping-off place. It was a small area just below the ship's huge funnel, the only spot I could find that was hidden from most other parts of the ship. I struggled toward the chosen spot and after several minutes reached it. A close look at the wild, turbulent waves sent shivers down my spine. I had better quit looking, I thought, or I might give up before I even got into the water.

   Then suddenly, directly facing me, a door opened and the light shone out and hit me. I ducked quickly and froze. Whoever had opened it stood in the doorway for an instant, took one fast look outside, then drew back in. Had I been seen? The door closed. Whatever had been in the seaman's mind, the storm had changed it.

   But now I had to act fast. The ship rose on the crest of a large wave and I stood about the height of a two-story building above the water. I planned to wait until the ship was down in a trough, then dive into the water. I waited until the last breaker had hit the ship. Then I climbed over the railing. Balancing myself momentarily, I made ready to dive headlong, straight down into the furious black sea.
Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2006, 01:38:39 PM »

Battle for Survival

   I took a deep breath, dived, and cut the water perfectly, plunging deep. Then trouble began. Overpowering sensations of shocking cold struck me. The water, when I had tested it earlier, was as cold as any sea I had ever felt. And now that I was immersed in it, my body was shocked by its frigidness.

   Driving my numbed arms and legs, I began swimming underwater as fast as I could. I had to go as far from the ship as possible before surfacing to avoid being spotted by someone on board who might open a porthole to get some air and see me. Finally, my lungs bursting for air, I desperately clawed my way to the surface and gasped for breath. I looked back. I was still much too close to the ship! I took another huge lungful of air, dived again, and swam submerged as far as I could.

   Not until my lungs once more screamed for air did I surface. That was better, but I was still too close. Again I went under and swam until, gasping for breath, I had to surface. That was much better.

   Only one thing filled my mind get away from the ship. If I were spotted, lights aboard the ship would be flashed on, illuminating the dark waters, and I would be a sitting duck, even in these tossing seas. I knew the ship carried a high-powered rifle equipped with telescopic sights, and hitting me would be as easy as shooting a fish in a bowl. If I claimed I had fallen overboard, the documents around my waist would give me away.

   Again and again I filled my lungs, dived beneath the tossing waves, and swam on. Soon I had swum far enough away from the ship to surface, stop and take stock of my situation. Now the numbing cold really hit me. My boots and heavy clothing had become waterlogged and added enormous weight. The boots especially were like a sack of bricks tied to each foot, dragging me down. I had to fight just to stay on the surface. A heavy wave smashed down on me, plunged me under, and I thought I wasn't going to make it. Somehow I reached the surface, coughing and sputtering and gasping for breath. Those boots! What a mistake! I should have taken them off! That little mistake was going to cost me my life, I felt. Sergei, you're a dead man!

   I had to get those boots off fast or the next wave might smash me under for the final time. Quickly I loosed the knife strapped to my arm, then cut the legs off my trousers. Next I ripped off my big outer sweater. Then I took a deep breath, ducked my head underwater, and began to cut and hack away at the left boot. Oddly enough, at that desperate moment, I remembered an old saying which I had repeated often: "I want to die with my boots on." But I had never thought of the boots killing me! I hacked and slashed, but the water-soaked leather wouldn't give. Once more I filled my lungs with air and I ducked under the water, slashing desperately. I knew that if I didn't succeed soon, I never would. I put my knife in the top of my water-soaked left boot and began to rip with all my might. The leather was giving! I felt exhilaration as the knife cut through. I surfaced once more for another breath of air, then went down to finish the job. After the third dive, the left boot was off.

   But the right boot wouldn't give! I slashed wildly at it, gashing my ankle instead. Finally I managed to get the edge of the knife in just right and pulled and I could feel the leather tearing. At last I was free of those concrete weights. But I was too drained of energy to feel very good about it. I had been in the water almost an hour.

   No sooner had I rid myself of the boots than I became aware of a new problem: fog! heavy, dense, blinding patches of fog were fast blanketing me and the ship. Soon the driving rain and waves closed off my view of the Elagin's lights, off in the distance, which I was using to get my directions to shore. In the swirling fog and blinding rain I could no longer keep my bearings. In which direction was the land? Which way should I swim? I became confused and lost! Heavy, pelting rain beat down on my face and head, stinging me. Everything was going wrong!

   Without compass or visibility, I had little hope of finding my way to shore and safety. I was unable to see more than three feet in front of me. By now I had been in the water for two long exhausting hours. That battle with the boots had cost me much precious energy. I had swallowed enormous amounts of water. The cold was now getting to me, too. I could feel the deadening numbness beginning. I gave myself just two more hours. If I didn't make shore by then, it was unlikely that I ever would.

   I chose what I thought was the direction of land and headed for it with all my might. I learned the movement of the huge waves and how to use them; when to top the crest of the next one, when to relax and gain strength for another hard push. The cold was bitterly numbing. Next to the fog, it was my worst enemy, consuming my energy and causing me to shiver violently as I swam. But I was making progress. Up one wave, down the other side of it, then up and over another.

   On and on I swam until, by the luminous dial of my water-proof watch, I could see it had been nearly three hours since I had plunged into the water. I had to be close to land now! My heart leaped a bit at the thought.

   A violent burst of wind scattered the fog momentarily. Eagerly I strained to see any sign of the shore. Then suddenly there it was, scarcely visible through the fog a great black object, standing high above the heaving waters. Land! A rock! I had made it! My heart beat faster with excitement. I had done it. Beautiful! Just beautiful! No sight in all my life had been so welcome as that mountainous hunk of rock. You've made it Sergei! You've made it! I congratulated myself. I swam on toward the rock, recklessly using up my remaining energy which I wouldn't need now. Then the fog parted for a few seconds. I stared in utter disbelief.

   Oh, no! It can't be! But it was. The "rock" was the Elagin! Three hours of excruciating cold, most of my energy spent, and here I was, back where I had started!

   And now I faced a predicament for which I had made no plans! What should I do? The bright lights shining through the portholes looked so inviting and warm. Perhaps I should cut my rubber belt off and say I fell overboard. With the ship pitching as furiously as it was, maybe my story would be convincing enough. They would pull me in, give me hot food and warm blankets, and my bitter nightmare would be over.

   But would it? The unbearable circumstances I was running away from would be back to torment me for the rest of my life.

   What then? Strike out for shore again? It seemed so impossible now. I was physically exhausted, psychologically drained. How much longer could I survive in those frigid temperatures? I had estimated my endurance at four hours at the most. And already I had been in the water three hours.

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2006, 01:38:57 PM »

   Numb with cold, I sized up the situation the best my tortured mind would allow. I decided I would rather die trying to find real life than continue to live as I had been living. I would not could not return to the life I had known. Even if I drowned I must not go back.

   With little hope left, I nevertheless started slowly swimming away from the Elagin. I thought of the documents around my waist. Would someone find them? Would anyone know who I was? Would anyone ever learn the story behind the body they found? My mind became dizzy as thoughts drifted in and out. All my life, from six years of age, I had been alone no mother or father. It seemed cruel that I would die still alone, lost in a watery grave.

   I tried to get my bearings. Which way was shore? This way? That way? How could I possibly tell, when I could see only a couple of feet around me? I stopped all forward movement. I was turning in circles, trying frantically to decide which way to go. I realized I was lost utterly lost.

   Sergei, you're finished. You're going to die. No one knows. No one cares. No one.

   I had been raised on Marx, Engels, and Lenin. They were my gods. Three times I had bowed before the lifeless body of Lenin in Moscow and fervently prayed to him. He was my god and teacher. But now, in my last moments, my mind turned to the God whom I did not know. Almost instinctively, I prayed. God, I have never been happy on this earth. Now that I'm dying, please take my soul to paradise. Maybe You can find me a little bit of happiness there, God. I don't ask You to save my body. But as it now goes to the bottom, take my soul with You to heaven, please, God! I closed my eyes fully believing this was the end. Now I'm ready. Now I can sleep. I relaxed and stopped struggling. My battle was over.

   Slowly, ever so gradually, I could sense something strange happening. Though I had been drained of every ounce of energy, I sensed a new strength flowing into my tired arms. I felt the strong and loving arms of the living God in the water like a heavenly buoy! I wasn't a believer. I had never prayed to God before. But in that moment, I became aware of new reserves of power pouring into my worn, water-soaked body. I could swim again! My arms, which were as heavy as logs only minutes ago, now felt strong enough to get me to the shore! I had now been in the water almost four and a half hours.

   And, strangest of all, I could sense what general direction to take! I could sense where the shore lay. Even when the tossing waves spun me about, I could come right back to the path I somehow knew would lead to shore.

   I didn't understand what was happening to me. All I knew was that my life was going to be spared. For two more hours I swam steadily forward. Then, out of the wild seas, I could hear a great crashing noise in front of me. A great wave of doubts flooded my head; I wondered was it the ship again? Or one of the other ships? Had I swum in a circle again?

   I swam strongly toward the sound. As the fog and driving rain cleared for a moment, I peered through; there it was a huge, tall rock rising out of the water! A real rock! The noise I had heard was the roar of the breakers crashing against it. It was rock good, solid rock! I had reached land! I've made it! I've made it! My heart leaped for joy.

   Then just as quickly my enthusiasm died. I suddenly realized how violent the storm-driven breakers were. Any one of them could pick me up, hurl me against the rock and crush every bone in my body. You're not out of it yet. Then I called out to God once more and again I knew He was with me.

   It was amazing! Even after five hours in the water, I was still mentally alert. I watched carefully as a huge wave crashed against the rock. Then I began swimming furiously to slip in between the huge breakers at just the right moment. I made it! Suddenly I was able to grasp the rock. For the first time in five hours, I had something solid to hold onto.

   Quickly I mounted the rock and climbed higher and higher to avoid the next breaker, which could easily knock me loose and wash me back out to sea. I climbed still higher. Then the next breaker hit just below me. I clung to the jagged edges of the rocks. After each breaker crashed, I climbed even higher, until at last I found myself looking down at the surging water far below.

   But as I relaxed a little, I was suddenly overcome by total exhaustion. I sat for a long time, freezing, shivering, my teeth chattering, unable to control the violent shaking of my body. I had swallowed enormous amounts of saltwater. I was so thirsty, so cold. But I knew I couldn't stay here. It was now about five o'clock. I had gone into the water at ten o'clock the night before and knew that my absence from the Elagin had long ago been discovered, and I was still on the seaward side of the rock. If the storm eased, I could easily be spotted through binoculars as day dawned. I felt that any minute a boat would come cutting through the fog with an armed search party and I would be doomed. With orders to bring me back dead or alive, they would capture me or would shoot me with the telescopic rifle. I couldn't stay on that side of the rock. I had to get to the safety of that village and people. I began climbing again. It was such a tall cliff, rising over two hundred feet above the water. But somehow I managed to get to the top, and I thought at last I was safe.

   But no! My heart sank. It seemed I was not on shore at all. The village was across a bay of water about two miles away. I would have to swim more! By now, I was becoming delirious. I couldn't take stock of my situation. My only thought was a blind, compelling drive to get to the village quickly before they came for me. But it all seemed impossible. My energy was gone. I was frozen and shaking violently. I moved toward the edge of the high rock, then began climbing down to the waterline. Suddenly I slipped and fell ten feet down the sloping edge of the rock. I fell and hit again and again and again. I felt like a ball, bounding into the air, hitting the rock, bouncing again, tearing my flesh on the rocks. I felt the searing hot cuts and the blood pouring over my skin as I fell. I hit a jagged rock on my side and felt blood gushing from my hands. Spun backward by the force of the fall, I hit another rock and felt a sharp pain in my back. I landed at the bottom of a ravine. I lay there, bleeding, in pitch darkness. For a second time I felt I wouldn't make it. In darkness and in driving rain, I desperately climbed back out of the ravine. If it had not been for my mountain-climbing experience I would not have make it out of that ravine.

   Back at the top of the cliff I could see the lights of the village about two miles across the bay, so inviting, but so far. Dawn was coming fast. I had lost track of time. I had to get there. I plunged into the water a second time. I screamed in pain as an excruciating, red-hot fire engulfed my body as the saltwater poured into the open wounds. Dimly, through the intense pain, I thought, God, You are giving me a little of the pain I gave Your children. Blood was coming from my legs and feet. Then suddenly I saw or thought I saw something that made me shudder with fear: a small boat, coming my way. They had discovered me missing and had sent a boat out looking for me, I thought.

   To this day I do not know whether it was a real boat, or a hallucination from my fevered mind. All I thought of was to swim, to get away. When I tried to swim, the pain increased. Yet, despite the agony, I swam on. Soon, however, I began to feel faint. I had lost too much blood and began to lose consciousness. No! Not here. Not when I'm so close to freedom! Through the dawning light of the new day, I could see a little fishing village in the distance. Only a few hundred yards to go! God, after all I've gone through, don't let me die so close to freedom. Please don't.

   Then everything went black. The last sight I remember was of that little village fading from my closing eyes. The last conscious thought I remember was, I must keep swimming! I must keep swimming! Then total darkness. I remember nothing else.

   What was I doing there, on that cold morning of September 4, 1971, so near death and so far from home? What had caused me to forsake the life of a naval officer and Communist youth leader in Russia and brought me here, at the point of death, to the alien, rocky Canadian shore?

   That story really began long ago in Russia with my grandfather and grandmother.
Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2006, 01:40:08 PM »

The Missing Family

   I never saw my grandfather, Ivan Kourdakov. But I felt as though I had, because of what I learned about him from an old woman who knew him well. What she told me about him left me with the impression of a man I should very much like to have known.

   He was a Russian of Russians tall, broad-shouldered, a huge man of the soil. Born near the village of Povolgiye on the Volga River, he grew to be self-reliant and independent, building his own farm into a prosperous, thriving enterprise.

   During the czarist times, he had served as a captain in the Cossack Army, putting down revolts and uprisings in the southern region of Russia. Later he served with the White Guards as a Cossack captain, joining in attempts to smash the new Communist revolution. It was around that time that his first wife passed away. Then, during the war against the Communists, he met a beautiful "princess" of the Ossetia tribe of people in the lower Caucasus, who later became my grandmother. I was told that she was actually a princess, because her father owned land and sheep, and also because of her beauty. Her hair was black and plaited and reached down to her ankles.

   In 1921 my grandfather returned from the wars to his farm village, there to start life all over again with his new young bride. According to the reports I heard, she became the envy of everybody in town because of her upbringing, charm, and grace. My grandfather, too, was greatly envied because of the princess he was said to have captured as part of the spoils of war. He kidnaped her, all right, but only in the sense that he stole her heart, for I was told she was very happy with him. Together they worked hard and rebuilt his farm. By 1928 he was firmly reestablished in life, owning several horses, a plow, and a mowing machine. By no means could he be considered rich, but certainly he was well off, because of his own enterprise and hard work. Here, where he had been born, he and my grandmother were exceedingly happy. But tragedy was not long in coming.

   In 1928 Stalin launched his collectivization program and an all-out war against the farmers and kulaks, the landowners. It was a reign of terror, the most fearful to that point in the twentieth century. Representatives of the military simply came onto the farms, brandished a pistol in the face of each owner, and confiscated all his food and crops, leaving him and his family behind to starve. It was the first deliberately planned, man-made famine in the world, and millions died of starvation because they resisted giving up their farms and their way of life. At the same time, Stalin increased exports, selling milk, grain, and cheese abroad. While this went on, more than a million Russian children died of starvation.

   It was in 1928 that the Communists struck out at my grandfather. A local Communist official came to his farm one day, stuck a pistol in my grandfather's face, and demanded, "Give me all the goods and crops you have." The man was a drunk and a good-for-nothing who had never worked. He ordered his men to begin searching, even digging up the ground, for hidden grain.

   But my grandfather was not one to give in easily to anyone. When the Communist intruder turned around, my grandfather grabbed him in a Russian bear hug and, giant man that he was, squeezed until all the man's ribs and backbone were broken, then dropped him in a lifeless heap on the ground. Immediately my grandfather was arrested and sent off to a special hard-labor camp in Siberia, there to spend nine bitter years, from 1928 to 1937. He never saw my grandmother again, for she was sent to a women's prison camp where she died. At the labor camp my grandfather was given extremely hard work, but though not young, he was still physically very powerful and could take the strenuous tasks assigned him.

   In October 1937, he was transferred to a lumber camp on the Chulym River in Siberia, and given the job of transporting logs from the river to a narrow gauge railway. Once when the machinery broke down, my grandfather picked up a heavy log, put it on his shoulder, and carried it to the railway car. In doing so, he strained his back and abdomen severely. He died shortly after that.

   My recollections of my mother and father are parts of my own hazy memory and a lot of patchwork information from a former friend of my father. I was only four years old when my father was killed. My mother died shortly afterward.

   It was in Povolgiye, on my grandfather's farm, that my father was born. In 1928, when Grandfather was exiled to Siberia, Father was sent along with him. At that time he was put into a school close by and raised in a state children's home. Soon afterward, while still quite young, he became an ardent Communist. Because his father was a prisoner in a labor camp, one of the first things he had to do was to cleanse his record and purge himself of all poisonous family relationships. He renounced my grandfather.

   For the short time I knew my father, I remember how I loved him and how, when I was a child of three or four years, he would come into my room to say good-night. Even now I can see his piercing black eyes and almost feel his long, curly mustache tickling my face as he leaned over to kiss me. I remember also that he liked to drink and usually when he came home, he immediately sat down at the table with a bottle in front of him. Being in the military, he was often gone for long periods. But when he was home, we had great fun together.

   I recall how he made me dance the chechotka, the famous high-kicking Russian dance. When I did well, he gave me a little glass of vodka, and I would drink it and dance some more. But soon he would become drunk and plop down on the bed. Often while he lay there, I would go to the closet, take out his uniform, and put on his coat; then I would parade up and down in it, bedecked with gleaming medals that tinkled as I walked. Beyond that, I remember little about life with my father.

   Because I was closer to my mother, I remember her much better. Her name was Anisia. She was from a very poor home but one in which there were believers in God. She looked after me very well. But most of our early years together have been long lost from memory.

   One of my two brothers, however, I remember quite well. He was somewhat older than I and he was my hero. Because we lived on the military base at Novosibirsk (which means New Siberia), Vladimir was sent to the city to go to school. Whenever he had a holiday, he would come out from the city to our house on the military base and then we had great fun. I remember how tall he was and how much I admired him.

   Once when I was four years old, he came home on a visit. The first thing he said to me was, "Come on, Sergei, let's go for a ride!" Then, putting a pillow over the bicycle handlebars, he perched me on top of it and off we went, racing down the road on the military base and turning off onto a narrow trail through the woods. Up and down the hills we rode, having such wonderful fun and laughing together. I remember coming to a stable, getting off the bicycle, and being lifted up to a horse. Vladimir jumped on behind, and we took off at a full gallop, with me clinging for dear life to big brother Vladimir, and he hanging on just as tightly. It was such great sport! But what we didn't know, at the time, was that Mother had seen us racing off on the horse and had come running after us, shouting all the way. "Vladimir, Vladimir, bring that child back!"

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2006, 01:40:26 PM »

   Mama was so far behind, she never could have caught up to us enough to make herself heard, except for what happened next. Just at the wrong time, as our horse dashed under a tree, Vladimir turned to look at something behind us and we were both knocked off to the ground in a hard fall. Besides everything else, Vladimir landed on my foot, and I began yelling and crying my eyes out. I remember Mother finally catching up with us, shouting, "Vladimir, you big oaf! Are you crazy, riding like the wind? And, as if that isn't enough, you get Sergei on a horse and don't have sense enough to know how to keep him on!" I'll never forget Mama's lecture and I'm sure Vladimir never did either. He listened respectfully, then reached down when it was over and carried me back to the house. I cried all the way, more scared than hurt.

   The last time I saw my brother Vladimir, he came into the room where I was lying on the bed and told me he was sorry for what happened. He told me I'd be a big, tough guy someday and that a little accident never really hurt anyone. Then he hugged me and said good-bye and walked out of the room, and out of my life. I have never seen him since, and I lost all track of him.

   When I was seventeen years of age I was visiting Novosibirsk from my studies at the naval academy. I was asked by an older friend, "Sergei, do you want to find out more about your mother, father, and brother?"

   ''Yes, of course," I replied.

   ''Well, then," my friend said, "go to the military base outside the city of Novosibirsk and ask for Lieutenant Colonel Dobrinsky. He knew your father and can give you some of the information you've been searching for."

   I had already been told that my father had been shot to death and my mother had died a few months later. But I had never learned the details surrounding their deaths. Now, at seventeen, I was keen to find out all I could about them. Earlier, when I was thirteen, I had heard that my brother Vladimir might be working in a prison camp in Kazakhstan. I wrote to the Supreme Soviet of Kazakhs Republic asking for their help in locating him. The reply I received later said that he was not found on the records of the population of that republic, nor did anybody know about him.

   Afterward, through a high-ranking Communist official, I sent a request to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in Moscow, asking their help in finding Vladimir. But they could not locate him either. He has so completely disappeared that it is possible he suffered my father's fate in execution or is in exile somewhere in a prison camp. But I have never given up hope that I might someday find him alive.

   From the time I was four years of age, I lived in other people's homes, but at six I went to live in children's homes operated by the state. After my very early years I never knew the caresses and kisses of a mother and father. I had no one to come to me and say in the morning, "Now eat your breakfast and study well in school." You can imagine, I'm sure, what these simple words mean to a child and the lifelong void that not having them left in my heart.

   Perhaps this was the greatest void that I, as a seventeen-year-old youth at the naval academy in Leningrad, had experienced. Therefore, when I learned that there was a Lieutenant Colonel Dobrinsky who could tell me about my mother and father, I wasted no time in going out to his military base. I knocked on the door of his quarters and I said, when he opened it for me, "I'm the son of Nikolai Ivanovitch Kourdakov."

   At first he looked at me blankly. Then suddenly his face lit up with a smile. "Oh yes, I know you. I remember your father very well. Come, come in!" He introduced me to his wife, who later prepared a big dinner for me, and we all sat around talking.

   There was plenty of vodka. The colonel offered me some and I drank a little, but he drank excessively. Soon he was quite relaxed and unable to control his tongue. His words flowed freely, and I began to learn details of my father's life, things that had been hidden from me all these years.

   "Certainly, Sergei, I remember him," the colonel said. ''Your father was a most interesting and capable man. He felt he had to wash away the sins of your grandfather and so he became a real soldier in the Communist army. Though he had only finished the fourth grade in school, he was such a fine soldier and political activist that he went very high up. He fought in many battles, risking his life for the Communist party again and again, especially in Turkestan, where he headed up the brigade that crushed a number of revolts. Then when the Finnish war broke out, the first thing he did was volunteer for duty on the Finnish front. He led a brigade there and served heroically." I listened, enthralled, as the details of my father's life were unfolded.

   The colonel's wife busied herself with the entertaining, faithfully pouring the vodka as the colonel demanded more and drank more. I sipped on mine and continued to listen. "When the Second World War broke out, your father took part in that also, commanding a tank unit under General Rokossovsky. He served with great honor and distinction and earned many medals. After the war, your father and I were close comrades and were sent to this very military base where we are now. However, when we came here, there was nothing. We were under orders to establish and build a tank-artillery training base. I was under your father by one rank and was his assistant. He worked very hard and industriously to organize this whole base, as you see it now. You see all this sprawling base? This is your father's handiwork. And though I was able to assist him, it was largely the result of his efforts. So your father was not only a very good soldier but a loyal political activist, as well. He supported Stalin 100 percent."

   "But what happened when Khrushchev came to power?" I asked.

   "Well, then things began to get difficult. I remember one night when I was the officer in charge here. A car pulled up and some people came in and asked for your father. I told them, 'He's not here. He's at home.' In the morning your father was due to come to relieve me. But at eight o'clock, when he was due, he hadn't shown up. I sent for him at home to find out what was wrong. But he wasn't there. They had taken him away during the night.

   "You ask why they took him away? I can see the question on your face. Well, Sergei, you must understand that Khrushchev was taking power from Stalin and there was a great fight in the higher levels of the party. They cannot change things quickly, but slowly, degree by degree. To consolidate his own power, Khrushchev was ordering the elimination of those high-ranking officers who were known to support Stalin. It had to be done quietly and a little bit at a time so as not to arouse suspicion.

   That's why your father was taken in the middle of the night. He served communism as few other men I have known. But like so many others I knew, he just disappeared. The second day after they took him, another man came to our headquarters, here at the base, and announced that he was now the new base chief. He said, 'Kourdakov was a very bad man and is under investigation.' That's the last I heard of your father. He simply disappeared from sight, never to be seen again. Do you understand, Sergei?"

   I understood. Or did I? The lieutenant colonel told me that my father would certainly have been a general by now if he had survived. He was simply too powerful a figure for Khrushchev to allow to live. So, in consolidating his own power, Khrushchev eliminated my father, who had served communism for almost all his life.

   The colonel went on. "Of course, your mother didn't last long after your father disappeared. She died about four months later, I think. Sergei, it was really because of a broken heart from the pain she suffered. She just lost the will to live. I remember when she died and that's when we lost track of you. I don't remember what happened to you after that. If I could have found you, the son of an old comrade and friend, I would have helped you all I could.

   "By the way, Sergei," he asked, "what did happen to you after your mother and father died?"
Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2006, 01:41:21 PM »

A Street Orphan

   What happened to me after my father's disappearance and my mother's death, a few months later, is painful to tell. It is a bit unclear to me even now. I was only four years old when I noticed that my father didn't come home anymore. "Mother," I would ask, "where is Father? Why doesn't he come in to kiss me good-night anymore?"

   Whenever I asked Mother this, she would burst into tears or else turn away, bury her head in her hands, and say nothing. Even as a four-year-old, I could understand there was something wrong that was causing Mother to become so upset. Mother's health began to break, gradually getting worse and worse, until finally all she could do was lie in bed all the time, unable to take care of herself or me. The last time I saw my mother, she was very ill; and then the next thing I knew, a friend of the family was saying to me, "Sergei, you don't have a mother anymore. She's dead. Come to our house and stay."

   At first I couldn't comprehend what that meant. I fully expected to see Mother again, if I only waited long enough. I was certain she wouldn't just go away and leave me and never come back. In my little child's heart, I knew that at any time I might see her at home again and everything would be all right. Though so much about that time of my life is obscured in my memory, I remember that the woman who told me that my mother was dead and who asked me to come and live in her home was Mrs. Kolmakov. She was the wife of Professor Kolmakov, a scientist and teacher who has since gone very high in Russia. They were nice people and I like them a great deal. But I wanted so to stay in my own home and wait for Mother. I wanted to be there the minute she got back. Mrs. Kolmakov was very kind and understanding and finally persuaded me that it was best that they take care of me.

   As far as I can recall, I was a little past age four when Mrs. Kolmakov and the professor took me into their home and made me a member of their family, which consisted of two sons, one of whom was named Andrei. Although I was very young, I remember how good they were to me and how much Mrs. Kolmakov wanted me to get a good start in life. Being the wife of a scientist, and an intellectual in her own right, she encouraged me to study, right from the time I first came into their home. She herself taught me to read and to count.

   The professor was a warmhearted man and truly brilliant. Later he was to work in Akademgorodok, a city in Siberia given over completely to science. I later heard a report that he became a member of the prestigious Soviet Academy of Sciences. Although he was always very busy and had boys of his own, he still had time to be a kind and loving father to me, and I quickly came to love him.

   Mrs. Kolmakov was a small woman, very motherly and full of love and concern for her good friend's little child. I could tell she was determined to be as good a mother to me as possible. Even though Mrs. Kolmakov did her best to become a mother to me, I was lonesome for my own mother. But was was glad for the Kolmakovs' care of me and I hoped that, if I couldn't have my own parents, I would never have to leave my adopted ones. And for two years, until I was six years old, we lived comfortably together, except for one thing Andrei, their son.

   Even as young as I was, I knew there was something wrong with Andrei. I later knew that he was mentally unbalanced. He was older than I and big for his age and he kept doing things and acting toward me in ways that frightened me. One day, when I was taking a bath, Andrei came into the bathroom. "Get out," I said. "You don't belong here. You can have it when I'm through."

   But Andrei only looked at me and smiled in a strange way. I instinctively knew something was wrong and was terribly frightened. Then suddenly he grabbed me by the shoulders and began pushing me down in the bathtub until my head was completely submerged. I struggled to get free and was gasping for breath, knowing now that Andrei was trying to kill me. I tried to shout for help and got a big mouthful of water. I fought furiously, but Andrei was strong. Then in sheerest desperation, I pushed and struggled and splashed until I managed to free myself and scrambled out of the tub. I fled from the bathroom, screaming hysterically, looking everywhere for Mrs. Kolmakov or the professor. Neither one was at home. Frightened by my screams and afraid of what his parents might do, Andrei ran out of the house into the backyard.

   Even at the age of six, I knew that with Andrei in the house, my life would always be in danger, there in my foster home. So I made a big decision. Hurrying to my room, I gathered up some of my clothes, those I could carry easily, stuffed them into a paper bag, and left the Kolmakov house forever. I was so afraid of Andrei I knew I would never come back, no matter how desperately I might wish I could.

   Soon I found myself alone on the streets, an orphan, without home or food. The only clothes I had were the ones I was wearing and a few more in my improvised bag-suitcase. There I stood in the streets of Novosibirsk, lonely, hungry, and frightened, wondering what to do next. I must find food and a place to sleep. I must learn how to survive, alone, on the streets of this huge Siberian city. I was soon to discover it was no easy assignment, especially for a child of six.

   When I left the Kolmakov home, it was August and warm, so I didn't have to worry about heavy clothing. But even so, my situation was desperate. And in my own childish way, I knew that it was.

   What can I do? Where can I go? And while I tried to plan my next move, I wandered the streets aimlessly. Everything and everybody looked so strange and big. Novosibirsk is a huge and sprawling city in central Siberia, with a population of nearly two million. It is called the crossroads of Siberia.

   Before long, I found myself in the heart of the city, near the Novosibirsk Central Train Station. Milling, pushing throngs of people were moving in and out of the huge, cavernous station. If Novosibirsk was really the crossroads of Siberia, this station was the reason. Trains departed hourly for such distant points as Vladivostok, in the Pacific Far East; Tashkent, down south in central Asia near Afghanistan; and west to European Russia. It was a milling, teeming, chaotic crossroads where one would see many different nationalities and hear strange dialects, as great crowds came and went.

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2006, 01:41:52 PM »

   For a six-year-old, away from home for the first time, it was an eye-popping experience. I wandered wide-eyed, taking it all in, bewildered and a little frightened, but most of all curious. This is it, I said to myself, and began looking around to get the layout of the massive building. In the waiting room I saw rows of benches and I knew certainly that in these buildings, rooms, and track areas, I would have no trouble finding a dark corner where I could bed down at night and sleep unnoticed. With trains coming and going from distant points at all hours, no one would ever pay any attention to a little six-year-old boy asleep under a bench. I would be safe here. No one would find me and send me back to the Kolmakovs.

   Now that the problem of my new "home" was settled, I began to think about something to eat. This problem was harder to solve. I had run away with only a few coins in my pocket and already I was getting hungry. The ice cream stand next to the newsstand was so inviting I couldn't resist it.

   The ice cream was so good, and the bar I bought so small, that I gobbled it down in a few moments. I started to walk away, but I was still hungry. Looking back at the stand, I dug out the rest of the coins from my pocket, just enough for one more ice cream bar. Something told me I should save it for later in the day when I would really be hungry. But a boy of six doesn't plan ahead too well. So I went back and said, "Give me another ice cream bar, please." The woman attendant in her white smock handed it to me, and it, too, was quickly gone.

   For some time I wandered contentedly, fascinated by the sights and sounds around me, especially the different languages and colorful dress of the people from down south in Asia. I didn't have a care in the world at that moment. But after wandering for a couple of hours, I was hungry again. My pockets were empty, except for one little coin which wouldn't buy anything. I looked at all the cake, pie, and candy stands, full of good things to eat. Oh, how I wanted something from every stand! But all I could do was stare at them, think of my empty stomach, and wish.

   One stand, loaded with delicious-looking wheat cakes, caught my eye. I sauntered over toward it, then stopped abruptly in front of it. There, guarding it with a watchful eye and two hundred threatening pounds, was a huge, mean-looking woman attendant. To me she looked like a fire-breathing giant! She's nobody to fool with. I'd better get out of here.

   A colorful fruit stand a few yards down the track caught my eye. But the attendant at the fruit stand, I quickly realized, would hardly win a prize for friendliness either. He didn't speak; he growled. "What do you want, boy? You ready to buy, huh? No? All right, all right, move on." Slowly I backed off, still keeping my eye on those great big red apples and big yellow pears.

   When I had started out to look at the stands, I had in mind begging the owners for a little bit of food maybe some from several of the stands. But after meeting those attendants, I knew it wouldn't be easy. Besides, I had never begged before, nor told a sad story, and I knew I wouldn't be very good at it. But I couldn't give up. I was hungry.

   I'm going to try. I looked up and down the rows of stands. At one, I spotted a little old lady who sold sandwiches. She looked kind. Walking over to her, I mustered all the courage I could and got ready to give my heartbreaking plea. I rehearsed it carefully and had it all organized. It was to go like this: "Please, ma'am, I'm just a little boy, separated from my parents, with no money. And I'm awfully hungry." All of that was very true and should have been easy for me to say. But when I started to say it, everything went wrong. I stammered and repeated myself. The woman eyed me, suspiciously at first, then threateningly. The longer I talked, the more she saw through me. Just then a man came up and ordered a sandwich, and she got busy with him, forgetting I was there.

   I walked away, deciding I'd never get any food that way and that I'd better give up begging. But what should I do? If I didn't get some food, I'd starve right there. And I thought, self-pityingly, that would serve them right, all of them, for just standing there and letting me shrivel up and die right in front of their eyes!

   Then I remembered the small coin in my pocket and I had an idea. I wandered over to the wheat cake stand once more and had a look around the stand. There, in back on the floor, I noticed a square sheet of metal on which the attendant stood. I walked over to the metal sheet, looking as innocent as I knew how, then, fishing around in my pocket and pulling out my last little coin, I tossed it onto the metal. It landed with a loud noise and began to roll.

   The clattering sound on the metal caught the woman's attention and, thinking it was her own money falling on the plate, she swung around and looked down. Quickly I dashed over, grabbed a handful of wheat cakes, and ran away as fast as I could. Behind me I could hear her excited shouts: "Stop that little boy! He's a thief! Stop him, stop him!" But I was too far away and quickly disappeared in the crowd. I found a quiet corner, far from the food stands, and sat down to eat. Hungrily I gulped down all but two of the cakes. Those two I decided to save for later. I was learning fast! Then I searched and found a dark corner at the far edge of the train station, where I huddled up for a good night's sleep. I had survived my first day in the big world.

   For ten days in August 1957, I lived by my wits, getting up early each morning to go out and search for my breakfast. On the tenth day I went "shopping" for food, going first to a fruit stand and trying to trick the woman attendant into looking behind her. But just as I opened my mouth to speak, she began to shout, "It's you again! Now you're going to get it, you little scoundrel!" Of all the stands I could have picked, I had chosen one I had stolen from just three days earlier. The attendant recognized me immediately. I took off running as fast as I could, with the woman at my heels, shouting all the way. I ran and ran, looking back to make sure she wasn't gaining on me.

   And then I ran into an immovable object one that talked and grabbed me in a viselike grip. "Hey!" he said. "Where do you think you're going in such a hurry?" I didn't care to look up, afraid I had run smack into a policeman. I had!

   My days of living at the Novosibirsk Central Train Station were over. But my time hadn't been wasted. I had learned a lot about survival that would come in handy later.

   The policeman took me to the nearby police station where he asked, "Little boy, where are you from? What's your name?"

   I wasn't about to tell. They would have sent me back to Mrs. Kolmakov's house, I knew, and I was sure Andrei would try to kill me again. So I said nothing.

   "Where are your parents?" the officer asked.

   "They're dead," I said.

   "What's your name?" I wouldn't answer. Then the officer shouted at me, and I got scared and said, "Sergei."

   "What's your family name?" he demanded.

   I replied, "My name is Sergei, and I have no mother or father. They are both dead." And I made up my mind I wasn't going to tell him anything more.

   Finally the office became exasperated and called in another officer and said to him, "What are we going to do with this little boy? He won't tell us anything except his first name and that he's an orphan."

   "Well then," the police officer said, "send him to one of the children's homes."

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2006, 01:42:10 PM »

   A few hours later someone came in a car and took me to Children's Home Number One. As I entered the home's front door, a heavyset woman stood at the entrance waiting for me. Without ceremony, she got right to the point and asked brusquely, "What's your name?"

   "Sergei."

   She didn't press me further, but just looked over the papers sent from the police station and said, "Well, Sergei. I see you don't talk very much. But we'll take care of that."

   Not with my help. Nobody's going to send me back to the Kolmakovs to be killed by Andrei. I was sure that it would do no good to tell her about my fears. I knew no one would believe me. To them, I would be just another little kid making up stories.

   "At least you can tell me how old you are, Sergei," she said.

   I guessed there would be no harm in that, so I said, "Eight." Of course I was lying. I was tall for my age, and I think she believed me. I thought it might throw them off the track and keep them from finding out who I was.

   "Where did you go to school then?" she asked. Oh, oh. Trapped by my own lie.

   Still determined not to give them any more information than I had to, I said, "I can't tell you."

   "All right," she replied, "we'll give you a test to find out how much you know."

   My tests showed that I was not quite good enough for second grade, but almost too good for first grade. So I was told, "You must go through first grade again."

   Again. I had never been to school at all, since school starts for children in Russia at seven, and I was only six. Whatever score I made in the school test was all because of Mrs. Kolmakov, who had taught me reading, writing, and arithmetic. Apparently she had taught me well, because the tests showed I was ahead of my grade. I was put in the first grade to go through it "again."

   The school I was sent to was near Children's Home Number One, and I did very well, to my surprise. I was the head of my class, and my studies seemed very easy. Life was looking up, I thought.

   But very quickly my hopes were shattered. Professor and Mrs. Kolmakov had been trying to find me and had gone to the police for help. They had finally traced me to the children's home. One day the director of the home called me out of class. "Now, Mr. Smart Kid," she said, "we know who you are."

   My heart sank and I pleaded with her. "Don't send me back. Please don't send me back."

   "Well, we'll see," she said. "I'll have to talk to the others, but I think you can stay here. But you're not eight; you're six. So you can't go to school yet."

   "But I'm doing very well," I protested.

   "That's not the point. The rules say you can't, and you can't!"

   But they did allow me to stay at the home. I really wished I could go back to the Kolmakovs, but my fear of Andrei kept me from it.

   While the other kids went to school, I spent the afternoons at the home. I'll never forget how lonely I was, sitting in my room, looking out the window. I had plenty of time to think now that I had a roof over my head. And I thought mostly of my father and mother and felt the deep loneliness so keenly. When I thought of my brother Vladimir, I began to grow bitter. Why didn't he come for me? Why did he just go off and leave me all alone? Didn't he care what happened to me?

   On March 1, 1958, I celebrated my seventh birthday. It was a big day. Now I could go to school next term! When I was enrolled, the teacher told us, "All children in grades one to three must join the Octobrianiks."

   I had never heard the word before. But the teacher explained that it was the Communist organization for children in the first three grades. "You don't belong to your parents any longer; now you belong to the Communist state." Since I didn't have any parents, it didn't matter to whom I belonged. The teacher said that to be Octobrianiks meant we were now "grandsons of Lenin."

   Lenin? Who is he? I had heard the name and read it on posters at the train station, but knew very little about him.

   "Lenin is the greatest man who ever lived. He not only lived, but he lives now and will always live," she said. "Who wants to be grandchildren of Lenin and go on outings and activities?" the teacher continued. And I, along with the others, joined up eagerly. Me, a grandson of Lenin! That's great, I thought.

   From age six to nine, I lived in Children's Home Number One in Novosibirsk and went from grade one through three in primary school. I made friends with the other children at the home, and I also made some discoveries. I had thought this was an orphanage for homeless children who, like me, had no parents. I soon learned differently. One day I talked to a boy who was sobbing and asking, "Why do I have to be here? I have a mother and father. Why can't I be home with them?" That was the first I knew that not everyone in the home was an orphan. Only later did I realize that these homes were primarily for children taken from their parents mothers and fathers who were declared unfit by the state because of their religion or political beliefs or for some other reason.

   I tried to comfort this little boy, but I couldn't explain to him why he had to be away from his parents when they were close by. I couldn't understand it myself. He had parents. Why couldn't he be home with them? Whenever I missed my own mother's caresses and my father's bushy kisses, I thought about that little boy and wondered why he didn't go home to be with his parents. If I had parents, I'd run away to them. Why didn't he?

   But more and more, I came to accept things as they were. After all, a nine-year-old boy has friends and games and other things to think about.
Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2006, 01:42:58 PM »

Adventures and Terror at V-I

   One day in 1960, when I was nine years old, the director of Number One came to me and said, "Kourdakov, get your things packed, you're going to a new children's home."

   "Where is it?" I asked.

   "Not far away. In Verkh-Irmen." I didn't know Verkh-Irmen from Moscow and was a little afraid. "It's only forty miles up the river from here," she said. The name Verkh-Irmen literally means "up the river Irmen," the name of the small river it was located near.

   When the day of my departure came, my few belongings were packed and ready. It was hard to say good-bye to my friends at Number One, but I had no choice. I got into the truck and it started off. A couple of hours later, we reached Verkh-Irmen, a small community too big for a village, not big enough to be a town.

   The Verkh-Irmen Children's Home or "V-I" as we called it was located on the outskirts of town. It consisted of four buildings two dormitories, an administration building, and cooking and laundry areas. Close by was the school, which served the children from the children's home as well as the children from the village. I was really nervous about my new home. However, the children welcomed me warmly, and I soon began making new friends.

   Shortly after I arrived, I joined the Young Pioneers, the Communist youth organization for children ages nine to fifteen, one step higher than Octobrianiks. When I was an Octobrianik, I was a grandson of Lenin. Now that I was a Young Pioneer, I didn't know what I was, except that we were each given a bright red kerchief to wear around our necks. When I looked at myself in the mirror I thought I looked quite dashing with it on.

   I quickly sensed that, compared to Number One, this children's home was different. First, there were more children here, around 120. Second, the director and instructors, whom we called "aunts" and "uncles," were much tougher. They were hard and utterly indifferent to our needs and wishes. I had tasted a little of this at Number One, but here I learned that a real hatred existed between the aunts and uncles on one side, and the children on the other. Neither group tried to hide their true feelings.

   None of the aunts and uncles became such by choice or because they loved to work with children. The party gave them their appointments to raise little Communists. These jobs were considered by the aunts and uncles to be the worst Communist party assignments that party members could get. It was considered dead-end work, jobs for those who had no future, whose careers were at an end. Those unfortunate enough to get them were very unhappy and often would take their feelings out on the children. Here at V-I, and later at other children's homes, they sometimes gave the most harsh and brutal beatings for the most minor rule-breaking. At other times, they totally ignored us when we really needed straightening out. Though I didn't understand it, I soon began to sense the tension between the children especially the older ones and the aunts and uncles.

   Things weren't all bad, however. One of the bright spots of my stay there was the friendships I made. One boy I met, about three years older than I, was Ivan Chernega. Ivan was about average height, with sandy, bushy hair and a friendly, smiling face which looked pleasant even when he was angry. He and I hit it off in a warm friendship at the start, in spite of our age difference, because I was big for my age and a little experienced by this time. It pleased me a great deal that Ivan took a liking to me, and we were close friends for a long time to come.

   Another good friend was Pavel, about ten years old, who had been at V-I for three years. Though small for his age, he made up for his size with cunning and cleverness. I soon learned that to get anywhere in life, you had to be resourceful, and Pavel surely had his share of that quality.

   Late one night we were lying in our bunks talking when we were supposed to be sleeping. Pavel was in the bunk next to mine and said, "Say, Sergei, how are you set for money? Need any?"

   I thought, "That's a stupid question. Who doesn't need money? "Of course I need money," I told him, "what do you think?"

   Pavel then turned over as if to go to sleep, and said, "Well, any time you really need money, Sergei, just let me know."

   He went off to sleep, as I lay there wondering what he meant. All the boys knew Pavel was resourceful. But what did he have a printing press to print his own money? Some kids had joked about Pavel's "money machine," but never did learn where his money came from. He would just disappear when he needed some, then come back with a fresh supply a while later.

   The next day I asked him at lunchtime, "Pavel, what did you mean last might when you said if I needed money to just let you know? You sound like you print it yourself."

   "It's almost that easy," he said, smiling.

   "I don't believe you," I snapped. "It can't be that easy for anybody, not even you!"

   "I can prove it to you. Come with me tomorrow."

   The next day Pavel and I met outside the grounds of the children's home. He was carrying a brown paper bag, stuffed with something. "Come on, Sergei," he said, "we're going in to Novosibirsk."

   "Novosibirsk!" I exclaimed. "That's forty miles away. What will the uncles say when they find us missing?"

   "Oh, they never pay much attention, if we don't cause them trouble. We leave them alone and they leave us alone. Quit worrying and let's go. We'll be back by midnight." So we boarded a bus and got to the big city at about 6:00 P.M.

   "It's about time," Pavel said mysteriously.

   What's he planning to do rob a bank?

   "Wait right here, Sergei," he ordered and strode around the corner, carrying that ever-present bundle of his. I found a park bench nearby to sit on and settled down to wait for him. While I waited my attention was attracted to a ragged, dirty, hungry-looking boy walking down the street toward me. Instinctively I felt sorry for him then I suddenly realized there was something familiar about him. I looked more closely.

   "Pavel, it's you!" I exclaimed. At last I knew what he carried in that brown paper bag his ragged beggar clothes! He winked.

   "Can you guess my secret, Sergei? No printing press. Just these." He pointed to the smelly, dirty, torn clothes he was wearing and handed me some like them. "Hurry up, Sergei. Put these on. The best time for begging is about dinner time."

   This was all pretty unexpected, but I did what he said. I went to a public lavatory, took off my regular clothes, stuffed them into a bag, and put on the tattered, dirty clothes. Then I walked back to Pavel. By that time, he had smeared dirt on his face and really looked pathetic. Before I knew it, he had rubbed his hands in the dirt and started to smear my face, too. I drew back.

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2006, 01:43:25 PM »

   "Now look, Sergei," he told me, "you've got to do this right. Stand still till I get you fixed up." And he proceeded to smear my face. Then he stepped back to look at his handiwork and said, "Not bad if I do say so myself."

   "Where now?" I asked.

   "Follow me."

   I followed him through the streets until we came to one of the best restaurants in Novosibirsk. It was nothing special to look at from the outside but had good food. Pavel paced off a few feet down the sidewalk in front of us. There we sat, like two starving ragamuffins. "Now, here's the way you've got to look," he said, as he put on a very sad face. I tried to mimic him.

   "No, that's not it! This way!" And he showed me once again how to look sad. Finally, after several attempts, I got it figured out, and Pavel said, "Not bad, not bad. Keep it that way."

   "I'll go first," he said, "and show you how it's done. Now here, play something sad on this." He thrust an old harmonica into my hands from the bottom of his sack. Putting it to my mouth, I tried to pick out where the "sad" notes were. I fumbled around at the lower end of the harmonica, thinking I might find them there. Apparently that wasn't where they were because Pavel wasn't at all pleased and gave me an angry look. I tried harder and soon figured how to get sad music while Pavel put on his saddest face and called out to the people coming out of the restaurant.

   "Please, I am an orphan. I have no money. I am hungry. Please help a starving orphan. I have no mother and no father. Please? he pleaded sadly, while I played away with the saddest sounds I could find on the harmonica. Our performance had gone on for several minutes with no response. It's not going to work. But just then a man stopped, looked at us compassionately, and dropped twenty-five kopeks into Pavel's filthy hat.

   It works! This is great!

   Another man, with his wife, dropped in fifty kopeks. By that time I had become greatly inspired and my music became sadder and sadder. Pavel, with his sorrowful face, poured out a story of hunger that moved even me.

   More and more pedestrians stopped and dropped money into our hats. Finally, during a lull, I said to Pavel, "This is great, but why here?"

   "Don't you know anything by now, Sergei? Look at them coming. Do they look very hungry? No, of course not. They're full. They've just eaten a good big meal. Now, how do you suppose they feel when they see poor, starving orphans right outside the restaurant? Don't you think their consciences hurt them? This is my best spot!"

   "Your best spot? Do you have others?"

   "Sure," he said, "at least four others. All right now, Sergei, it's your turn."

   "Oh no," I protested, "you're doing too well. You keep right on."

   "No," he said, "you've got to learn sometime."

   He took the harmonica from me and began playing the most doleful sounds I have ever heard. He was really good! I put on my longest, saddest face, and before I knew it, I was saying, "My mother is sick; my father is dead. My brothers and sisters are at home starving. Please give me money for my sick mother. Please give me money for my little brothers and sisters. We are hungry." To my astonishment, it worked! Kopeks came dropping into the hat as the people stopped and opened their pocketbooks.

   But then, disaster!

   Coming out of the restaurant and heading right toward us was the director of the children's home at V-I. He knew us both well, for we had been called to his office many times, and we were sure he would recognize us, despite our disguise. I thought we were done for! My heart was pounding, and the closer he came, the faster it beat. I figured the best thing we could do was to get out of there as fast as we could, so I said, "Let's go, Pavel, he's sure to recognize us!"

   "No," said Pavel, "it's too late!"

   The director came over to us and asked, "Little boys, where are your parents?" I had such a lump of fear in my throat I couldn't talk.

   Pavel saved us by saying, "Our parents are dead, sir." Even when we spoke, the director showed no sign of recognition. Then I remembered the dirt and grime Pavel had smeared on our faces. Our disguise was working!

   "That's unfortunate," he said, without emotion. He walked a few steps, then hesitated, turned, and came back. Looking straight at me, he asked, "Haven't I seen you somewhere before?"

   I gulped, hung my head to avoid his gaze, and timidly said, "No, sir, I don't think so." And to myself I said, If I get out of this without being caught, Pavel can have it! I'll survive some other way!

   The director must have had a rare moment of sympathy that day, because he did something quite out of character for him. With a shrug, he patted me on the head and handed me some money. "Here," he said, "go buy yourselves something to eat."

   As he walked off, Pavel and I looked at each other and without a word, as soon as he was around the corner, we jumped up, grabbed the hat full of money, and started running. We ran and ran until we almost fell over from exhaustion.

   "Boy! That was close!" Pavel said, as he started counting the money and smiling.

   "No more, Pavel, no more. This isn't for me. It's too risky," I said.

   We boarded a bus back to Verkh-Irmen late that night, with our pockets full of money.

   Since little attention was paid to the inmates of V-I by the home's directors, the older boys, thirteen to sixteen years old, began to roam off the grounds into the main part of town. Among them were many of my "heroes," including Ivan Chernega. And when Ivan and his gang invited me, one of the younger kids, to join them, I was overjoyed.

   Without proper attention from the children's home officials, the boys became more and more unmanageable, until the packs of marauding children had begun a reign of terror throughout the entire village. No man's property was safe. Every garden was our garden; every yard our yard. We simply walked in wherever we chose and took whatever we wished.

   During those times, the director of our home and the aunts and uncles knew what was going on, but they apparently didn't care. Since they were responsible only for what happened on the grounds of the children's home, and nothing was being damaged there, they took the attitude that what we did in town was no concern of theirs. And we were careful to make sure we saved our worst behavior for the townspeople.

   Before long, Verkh-Irmen was completely in our hands. Any of the "wolf-pack" victims who dared to protest suffered swift and certain retaliation. Usually we smashed their windows, tore down their fences, or rooted up their vegetable patches.

   The threat of breaking windows in winter was especially effective. I remember Ivan Chernega saying, "Smash their windows! Maybe if they freeze a bit, it will freeze their mouths shut and they'll quit telling on us." Sometimes a "wolf pack" would attack the people themselves. A few were seriously hurt.

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2006, 01:43:46 PM »

   Soon some of us decided we didn't want to go to school anymore, and some of the twelve-and thirteen-year-olds broke out the windows of the school. Of course, they took great care not to hit our dormitory windows, or we'd be the ones to freeze! All we wanted to do was to get the classrooms so cold it would be impossible to conduct classes in them. But despite precautions, one boy's rock went astray and knocked out one of our dormitory windows. We all nearly froze because of it. We quickly taught him a lesson that considerably improved his aim!

   Night after night the "wolf packs" kept the frightened villagers in a state of siege. Finally, in desperation, the villagers wrote secret petitions of appeal to the provincial government reporting the terror prevailing throughout Verkh-Irmen.

   In the summer of 1961 the police and provincial authorities ordered the children's home at V-I closed and the children moved elsewhere.

   Ivan Chernega came to me and said, "Sergei, have you heard? They're closing the children's home here."

   "No," I replied. "When?"

   "Any day, I guess. I hear they're going to split us up and send us to different children's homes."

   "What do you think we ought to do, Ivan?"

   His answer was prompt and firm. "Well, nobody's going to move me anywhere! I'm going to move myself. Want to come along, Sergei?"

   "Yes," I said.

   So we made our plans and one morning very early we packed a few things, slipped out the door, and disappeared from V-I forever. Ivan and I made our way to Novosibirsk. There Ivan asked, "Sergei, where do you want to go next?"

   "Well," I said, "I'd like to stay right where we are. I know Novosibirsk and I'd like to spend some time here."

   "They'll be hunting for us, you know," Ivan said. "I think we'll have a better chance if we split up."

   "You're probably right," I agreed.

   "Where will you go, Sergei?"

   "I know where I plan to go, Ivan," I said, thinking of my past experience at the railway station. I remembered that I hadn't done so badly there at the age of six. Now that I was three years older, with a lot more experience behind me, I knew I would do really well. And in an emergency, I could fall back on the begging technique Pavel had taught me. Then we said good-bye and parted. Ivan went his way and I went mine straight to the railway station. I found it just as I remembered it, only more crowded, with bigger throngs of people coming and going.

   I was impressed, as I hadn't been at six, with the chaotic scene before me: train announcements, sounds of steam engines, the noise of great crowds. The station afforded a perfect refuge into which I could disappear and hide for long periods without fear of discovery. I was far wiser and more confident now than I had been during my first brief sojourn here. And much more resourceful.

   It didn't take me long to find the place where I was going to sleep at night a dark, secluded area. If I played it smart and didn't do anything to attract attention, there was no reason why I couldn't continue to live this way for months. Knowing how to snatch fruit and cakes would keep me in food.

   Whenever I went to the stands to steal food, I always watched for the new attendants to come and go, because I knew it would be fatal for me if I ever went to the same stand twice. Once day I went to a fruit stand managed by a new attendant. I had decided I wanted some apples. Walking up to her, I faked a look of alarm, as though I were seeing something very frightening behind her. She whirled around to see what I was staring at. Those few seconds were all I needed. I reached over while her back was turned, grabbed some apples, and took off running at full speed.

   I had taken her completely by surprise and left her totally bewildered. A clean getaway, I thought. But I was unaware that a woman had spotted me and watched my routine. She followed me quietly and came over to where I stood eating my apples and said, "Young man, are you really that hungry?"

   "How hungry?" I said.

   "Hungry enough to do what you just did." I knew then that she had seen me steal the apples. She was about sixty-five years old and had a kind face.

   She asked me, "Young boy, do you have a place to live and a place to sleep?"

   I replied guardedly, "Yes, I have a place to live."

   "Where is it?" she asked.

   "Well, it's not far away," I replied.

   "You know," she said, "I don't think you have a proper place. I think you're sleeping here in the train station and you're foraging and stealing your food." She paused for a moment, then continued, "Why don't you come home with me? I have a place where you can sleep and I have plenty of food."

   Her face was so sweet and kind that I agreed. She led me to the outskirts of the city to a little wooden shack along a muddy road. Inside, the tiny cabin was clean and tidy.

   During a nice, warm meal we talked, and after I told her a nice story, she said she would be glad to have me stay there as long as I wished. She was most helpful and considerate, and I will never forget her kindness. But after a few days, I realized I was a burden on her because she was very poor, and with an extra mouth to feed she could not manage very long. So one morning I left her a note thanking her and saying good-bye, then slipped away.

   I had been away from the V-I Children's Home about three weeks when I went to the train station once more to resume my street life. But within three days the police arrested me for stealing things off the tables in the street stands. I felt badly, not so much because I was caught or had been stealing, but because I had lost my touch.

   A few days after I was arrested, I was sent to the children's home in Barysevo, a place I'll never forget.
Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2006, 01:46:13 PM »

At War With the "Uncles" and "Aunts"

   Barysevo is a small town located about seventeen miles from Novosibirsk, perched on the edge of a cliff carved out by centuries of fierce Siberian winds. The Barysevo Children's Home sat on the grounds of a former Orthodox church and school long since closed.

   The main part of the church itself had become a club for the showing of movies, while the children's home occupied the former church school building. The rectory had been converted into the laundry house where all the children's clothing, bedding, and other laundry were cleaned. Two other buildings had been added, until the complex was large enough to accommodate between one hundred and one hundred twenty children, ranging in age from one to eighteen years old.

   Though I did not realize it when I arrived, the years at Barysevo were to be a turning point in my life. Barysevo was to be my home until I graduated from high school and went into the military, seven years from the day I arrived.

   My first experience in my new home was a happy one. The day I arrived and checked in at the boys' dormitory, who should I see but Ivan Chernega. "Ivan!" I exclaimed. "Where did they catch you? Have you been here long?"

   "Sergei!" he shouted, running up to me and clasping my shoulders. "I see you had better luck staying out than I did." And he went on to tell me how he had been picked up in Novosibirsk and brought to Barysevo.

   He listened eagerly to my story and then said, "Well, Sergei, I was going to show you how to survive on the outside, but it looks like you showed me instead!"

   "Ivan, what's it really like here?" I asked him. "You know what I mean?"

   "Well," he said, "it's a lot like V-I. And let me warn you, there are a couple of people here you'd better not cross. One of them is an uncle named Alexander Nichman Uncle Nichy we call him. The other is the director, Irene Dobrovlanskaya. All the kids call her Big Irene. They're the two bad ones, Sergei. Stay away from them. Otherwise the aunts and uncles here are about the same as those at V-I. You leave them alone and they leave you alone." I nodded in understanding.

   There was a big change in Ivan that I noticed right away. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but just the same, I saw that Ivan was different. When he introduced me to other friends he had made at Barysevo, I began to feel good for the first time.

   My introduction to Big Irene came when I was called into her office just after my arrival at the home. Ivan's warnings were fully justified. She was an imposing, huge, fearsome woman. My first look at her told me that she would not accept any foolishness from anybody, ever.

   On her white smock she wore the medal of the Order of Lenin. It was a high order in the Soviet Union, given to those Communists who had rendered outstanding service to the Communist party. Big Irene was never seen without her medal. She apparently wanted everyone to know she was somebody of importance who had made a significant contribution to the party. But that was in the past, and for some unknown reason she had been sent to Barysevo. She was a woman embittered by disappointment at having been assigned to such an obscure post.

   Almost as imposing and fearsome a figure was our "chief uncle," Alexander Nichman. I have never known another man quite as mean looking and formidable as he. I met him a couple of days after I had met Big Irene. He was very tall, heavily built, and exceptionally strong, with a violent temper that could be touched off by the slightest provocation. The vengeance he would take and the injury he would inflict with his powerful strength could be most horrible. Even without Ivan's warning, I knew Uncle Nichy was no one to fool with, so I made up my mind right from the start I would avoid him like the plague.

   Like Big Irene, he had seen better days with the Communist party. At one time he had been a pilot in the Soviet Air Force, but for some reason that he kept carefully concealed, he had been demoted and discharged from the military. No one could find out more. Rumors were he crashed a plane while drunk. The slightest hint that anyone was trying to probe into his past would set him off in a violent rage.

   Uncle Nichy felt it quite a comedown to end his career as a prison warden, as he called it, to juvenile delinquents. He was a most cruel man, without a spark of kindness in him, and he continually took out his frustrations on anyone who ruffled him.

   Most of the aunts and uncles at Barysevo had been there for twenty to thirty years. During that time, any love or concern they might once have felt for their young charges had long since disappeared. The new, young workers who came to Barysevo, however, brought along many ideas for developing good relationships with the children. But within a year or two they had changed so radically they could hardly be recognized as the same eager young overseers. So dominated were they by Big Irene and Uncle Nichy that they, too, gave up and became as apathetic as the others.

   An atmosphere of fear prevailed throughout the home. We were afraid of the aunts and uncles. They were afraid of Big Irene and Uncle Nichy, who, in turn were afraid of the party leaders. Barysevo became a camp of hate and fear, divided between the wardens and the children. Sometimes, during my first months there, I longed to talk about my problems with an aunt or uncle. I wanted someone to smile and be friendly, counsel me, and show some approval. But I quickly learned that the rules at Barysevo tolerated no such "weak" behavior.

   Once we smaller kids realized that these were the rules, we fell into the hateful attitudes of the older children. And yet, it was in this hostile atmosphere that bonds of friendship, which were to last for years, were developed. We children, realizing that all we really had in life was one another, formed a close-knit circle made up of our own leaders the toughest, strongest, and smartest among us.

   How I wanted to belong to that inner circle! But since the other boys were twelve and thirteen years old and I was barely ten, I felt there was no chance of it. Then one day Nikolai Povaleyev called to me and said, "Sergei, come over here. We want you to give us a hand." I went over to where the boys from the inner circle were standing. One of them was holding a box of light bulbs. Nikolai said, "You see, Sergei, we've got to change the light bulbs in some of the buildings here and we need your help."

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2006, 01:47:13 PM »

   "I'll help," I said. I was flattered at the invitation, especially when it came from someone like Nikolai, so respected and admired a comrade. "Tell me what you want me to do."

   "Come on, follow me, and I'll show you," he told me.

   So off we went, me following Nikolai and the others trailing after us, all heading for the former main church building which was now the movie and recreation center.

   As we entered the door, Nikolai pointed up to the high, domed church ceiling and said, "Sergei, you see that light up there?"

   "Yes," I replied.

   "Well, it's burned out, and we want you to help us replace it with this new bulb."

   "All right," I said. "Where's the ladder?"

   "Well, that's just it; we don't have a ladder."

   "How am I going to get up there?"

   "We'll improvise and find a way," answered Nikolai. Quickly he and the other fellows rustled about and came back with about five or six chairs which they stacked one on top of another, until they reached most of the way up to the light fixture.

   I was dumbfounded. "Do you want me to climb that!" I exclaimed. I couldn't believe it, but they did.

   Nikolai turned to the fellows and said, "Hold the chairs as tight as you can . . . . And, Sergei, go ahead. Climb up and get that bulb in. It's all right. You can trust us."

   There was nothing to do but start climbing. If I didn't, I'd be branded a coward. I'd never really be accepted. With the light bulb tight in hand, I began to climb, finally getting up to the sixth chair. I paused for a moment and looked down worriedly. But when I saw all of the fellows holding onto the chairs for dear life, I decided I was in good hands. Then just as I reached up to screw the bulb in place, I heard Nikolai, my friend, shout, "Now!" And he jerked the bottom chair out. I fell crashing to the floor in a tangled heap of chairs.

   For a few seconds I lay there completely stunned. All the fellows stood and laughed at me while I pulled myself out of the pile of smashed chairs. Some friends! They all turned and walked off, leaving me to disentangle myself as best I could. It's a wonder I hadn't broken my neck. As it was, I had badly bruised my hip and had to hobble back to the dorm, like an old man. Somebody called across the yard, "Hey, Sergei, what happened? You look like you got hit by a train!" And everybody laughed. I didn't know it then, but I had been given the "light bulb treatment."

   I finally made it back to the dorm. The pain in my battered body was bad enough, but my disappointment in my "friends" was even worse. None of them said a word to me. I couldn't figure out what was going on.

   Then on the third day, Boris came to me and said, "Sergei, you made it! You're in!"

   "In? What are you talking about?"

   "You're in, Sergei. In! Don't you understand?"

   "No, I don't understand," I growled. "All I know is that you guys almost got me killed."

   "Sergei, you dumbhead, don't you know that was a test? We couldn't admit you to our group until we could find out if you could keep a secret without running to Big Irene or Uncle Nichy and blabbing about every little thing that goes on and getting us all into trouble. We had to find out if you knew how to keep your mouth shut. You passed the test. Come on with me."

   So I followed Boris and we went to the club where we found Nikolai, Ivan, Alex, and the others. They all welcomed me. I made it! I guess I really am in the group. Later I learned it was one of many tests every new boy was put through before he could be trusted. We were two factions at war at Barysevo the children against the aunts and uncles and we had to determine which side we were going to be on, then stick together no matter how rough things got.

   One by one, I began to meet the fellows who were going to be the main people in my life for the rest of my stay at Barysevo. Many of them I met through my good friend, Ivan Chernega.

   First, there was Boris Lobanov. Although he was about my age, he had been at Barysevo much longer than I and was wiser in the ways of survival in the home. Boris as a Greek-Russian, heavyset and as tall as I, strong, dark, and rather good-looking. He was the kind of friend you could trust with your life, which I found I would have to do on several occasions.

   I also met Mikhail Kirilin. A Tarter from Asia, he appeared outwardly fierce and forbidding. But inside he was warm-hearted, friendly, and totally reliable. He could always be counted on in a tough situation. Mikhail was also about my age, but had been at Barysevo a year longer. I asked him many things about his background, but he told me little. I knew him as a hard worker, energetic and resourceful. I learned, too, that he had many contacts back in the region of Tashkent in Asia. Later we were to develop these contacts in order to use them in our special business.

   Nikolai Povaleyev was one of the toughest, strongest, and most ruthless fellows I have ever met. When you were on the right side of Nick, you were well off. But woe to the person who rubbed him wrong. Once you had won his loyalty, however, you found him a true and constant friend. His contacts and amazing resources were always yours to draw upon in a time of need. There was a saying at Barysevo, that "whoever won Nick for a friend could afford a lot of enemies." His strength, ambition, and natural talents had quickly propelled him into positions of leadership in any situation or group. Remarkable person that he was, Nick was bound to go far in whatever job in life he would choose.

   Then there was Alexander Popov. Alex had to be one of the most remarkable fellows I would ever run across in any children's home and certainly one of the world's best pick-pockets. After a two-minute conversation with you, he could walk away with almost anything you carried or wore, from your wallet to your shoes! He was a fellow of unusually good humor, always even tempered. At the same time, he was another one who was far better to have on your side than against you.

   Alex was always good for a few rubles. Whenever we needed cash, he would go to Novosibirsk, ride the streetcars, and come out at the other end with his pockets bulging with wallets and money. He was often the "provider" for our four-man gang, comprised of Nikolai, Ivan, Boris, and me. We nicknamed him Light Fingers and called him our "treasurer." Whenever we ran low on funds, all we had to do was turn to good old Alex, our treasurer.

   There were other young fellows at Barysevo whom I came to know and appreciate, among them two brothers, Alexander and Vladimir Lobuznov. They proved themselves good friends but were never allowed into the inner circle because Alexander had a fierce temper he was unable to control. It eventually caused his death. The loss of their parents was, I heard, especially tragic, but I never did learn the full story.

   Others came in and out of our group, like Sorokin and Pavel Kiryakov. Though they were liked by our group and proved their loyalty to it, they never quite made it into the inner circle.

   One remarkable young fellow, Nikolai Saushkin, was a bit older than the rest of us and always stood off to the side, never really becoming part of us. Because he was nearing eighteen, he was soon to leave Barysevo. However, he left the home under unusual and unexpected circumstances, and I was to meet him again under unusual circumstances.

   Homes like the one at Barysevo, wherever they might be, were to serve as factories turning out tomorrow's Communists. Propaganda was everywhere. Huge placards and slogans were painted everywhere in yellow letters on flaming red boards reading:

WE WILL DEFEAT AMERICAN IMPERIALISM!

ALL SUPPORT TO THE PEOPLE OF VIET NAM!

LONG LIVE PEACE, FREEDOM, AND SOLIDARITY!

PROLETARIANS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

   These slogans were in all of the children's homes where I ever lived. We could hardly turn around without seeing them. They were in the dormitories and rooms, the dining halls and washrooms, posted on outside walls, hanging on fences and anything else that would support them. Images like WE WILL DEFEAT AMERICAN IMPERIALISM! were burned into my mind, until they became a part of me.

   The school and children's home at Barysevo were separate. The school was in the village of Barysevo itself. We kids from the home went to school there along with the children of the village. This was fortunate. I meant that we could develop good relations with our teachers, even though the relationship with the aunts and uncles of the children's home was one of mutual hatred. School to us was a break from the pressures of life at the home, a welcome opening into a different world.

   As a member of the Young Pioneers, I underwent an indoctrination program much more intense than it had been in the Octobrianiks. Lenin peered at us from every wall. His slogans, sayings, and Communist ideology so saturated the classrooms that arithmetic, language, and other studies took a back seat. For the Octobrianiks, school indoctrination in communism is mostly an introduction to "Grandfather Lenin." As we got into the fourth grade, it became more intensive. But one thing stayed the same: almost every morning, the teacher started the class by saying, "Good morning, children. How are you today? Remember, there is no God." They must sure be afraid we'll learn of God, whatever God is.

   I had great enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. In the fourth and fifth grades I was such an active Young Pioneer, that when I reached sixth grade I was appointed leader for the school.

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Soldier4Christ
Global Moderator
Gold Member
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 57336


One Nation Under God


View Profile
« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2006, 01:47:54 PM »

   We were trained to march and to shout slogans such as, "Long live communism; long live Lenin." And as we marched up and down the streets of Barysevo we held our heads high and proudly displayed the red kerchiefs around our necks. I think the townspeople got a little tired of all our marching and shouting of slogans of "Long live this and long live that." They often slammed their windows closed whenever one of our marching groups passed by. But I didn't mind. I felt I belonged for the first time in my life.

   The activities of the Young Pioneers were perfectly geared to the interest of our age level. We were given mock machine guns and organized into brigades and battalions to fight make-believe military battles and take towns by storm. We hardly needed to be pushed. We charged across Barysevo, down streets and across lanes in simulated battle. Sometimes it became all too real when we got overly enthusiastic and crashed through fences and across gardens, leaving behind a trail of enraged and shouting villagers. Boris, Nikolai, and I thoroughly enjoyed such exercises and jumped into them with both boots.

   Meanwhile, life back at the children's home continued.

   As time went on, we boys found it harder and harder to understand the cruelty of our leaders at the home. For minor infractions of the rules, we received brutal punishment.

   One of the rules of the home was a nap every afternoon for everybody. But I certainly had no intention of obeying a rule like that. I was about twelve years old, big, muscular, and full of energy, and I couldn't imagine anything more boring. Reading was one of my favorite pastimes and I did a lot of it, even during the afternoons when I was supposed to be sleeping. I took a flashlight to bed with me and read under the covers. I did it almost every day and nothing ever happened.

   Then one day Uncle Nichy was in a foul mood, partly drunk, and trying to find someone to take out his hostilities on. It happened to be Sergei Kourdakov he was after. There I was, reading under the covers, not suspecting a thing, when suddenly I felt a heavy fist in my side, knocking me out of bed. Startled and shaken, I looked up. There was Uncle Nichy standing over me, looking ten feet tall instead of his usual six. He was yelling, "Kourdakov, I caught you this time. You're a worthless, no-good boy. I'm going to beat you within an inch of your life. I'm going to teach you a lesson you're never going to forget!"

   I was really scared. I didn't know what to expect. I was big for my twelve years, but I was no match for Uncle Nichy. Next thing I knew, he grabbed me by my pajama top, dragged me across the room, and shouted, "I'm going to give you some Vitamin P, Kourdakov. Vitamin P. You know what that is, Kourdakov?" He laughed drunkenly. I trembled. We all knew what Vitamin P was! The Russian word for belt buckle is pryazhka. When he used it, he called it giving us our Vitamin P.

   I watched him as he took off that big, heavy belt with the huge metal buckle. Even a thrashing with the leather part of it would have been terribly painful, but he had to beat us with the buckle, which would leave us really bruised and broken. "All right, Kourdakov," Uncle Nichy said with hatred in his voice. "Get ready for your Vitamin P! Maybe it'll teach you a lesson." By this time all the startled kids had jumped up from their naps and were looking on, scared and wide-eyed.

   The last thing I ever would do was beg for mercy, from anybody. Even though I was about as scared as I had ever been before, I tried to put on a big front. But that only infuriated Uncle Nichy more. And he began to beat me, hitting me with the edge of that heavy belt buckle again and again, not caring where it landing. I jumped about trying to dodge his blows, but he held me in such a grip in his left hand I couldn't shake loose. Everywhere that buckle landed, it felt like it broke a bone. I wondered if he was trying to kill me. I was bleeding from the back of my ribs where the edge of the buckle had cut deeply into my flesh. Finally, when he was so exhausted he could hardly stand, Uncle Nichy pushed me away and shouted, "Now get out of here, you dirty little punk, and don't let me catch you reading again."

   I stumbled back to my bed and fell across it, hurting everywhere in my body. I was sure I must have broken bones. That beating hurt me more than any I had ever had in my life, but I wasn't going to let Uncle Nichy have the satisfaction of seeing me show any pain. So I covered my head with my blanket and writhed in agony but I wouldn't cry. That brute of a man would never see me shed a tear for anything he could ever do to me. And neither would anyone else!

   From the day of that merciless beating, I could think of hardly anything else but getting even with Uncle Nichy. I hated him more than ever. My chance was soon to come.

   Several days after the beating, Nikolai Povaleyev came to me and said, "Sergei, it's time we teach Nichman a lesson."

   "What can we do?" I asked.

   "Just leave that to me," he said. "I've been a around a little longer and I can think of something."

   "All right," I said eagerly, "I'll go along with anything. But let's just make sure he gets everything he deserves."

   When Povaleyev set his mind to something he wouldn't let up until he got what he wanted. So the next day he came back with Boris and Ivan and a great idea. "Sergei," Nikolai said, "we've got it all planned, how we're going to take care of Nichy and give him some of his own Vitamin P." We huddled together and he told me what we would do. The idea sounded perfect, and I could hardly wait to get started on it.

   Every night, around eleven o'clock, Nichy would come into the dormitory to check on everybody. This night we would have a surprise for him. The room was dark and still, and we listened intently for footsteps big, heavy ones. It was not long until we heard them. Nichy was coming.

   The dormitory door opened and Nichy walked in, not suspecting a thing. Then we went into action! Povaleyev and two others jumped on his back and quickly pulled a cloth sack over his head so he couldn't see who we were and what was going on. Two others had unscrewed the light bulbs so he couldn't turn the lights on. Others jumped on him, hit him with their fists, beating and kicking and pummeling him to the floor. I took special delight in giving him a couple of good, hard blows right on the nose. I hoped I had broken it. We swarmed all over him, kicking and beating, while he shouted, his yelling stifled by the sack over his head. The kids who were not in the plan knew what was going on, but they just kept their heads under the covers. They saw nothing and we knew they would say nothing.

Logged

Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 5 Go Up Print 
« previous next »
Jump to:  



More From ChristiansUnite...    About Us | Privacy Policy | | ChristiansUnite.com Site Map | Statement of Beliefs



Copyright © 1999-2013 ChristiansUnite.com. All rights reserved.
Please send your questions, comments, or bug reports to the

Powered by SMF 1.1 RC2 | SMF © 2001-2005, Lewis Media