Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Final Return

They never seem to mind, the gulls, whether there is food for the bipeds, whether there is hot water... all they need is a salty breeze

This is another excerpt from the stories investigating immigration. This one goes many years before anyone even thought of it though. As I will eventually show, the seeds for immigration are sown generations before the actual act, this is a look at one such seed:

The Final Return

Suck, suck, suck…suck…,…,…suc…........,....
Barely breathing herself she lifted the now lifeless form from her breast. The little she had left she tried to give, but at some point he had no more strength to take another drink of her watery depleted milk. She buried her face in his tiny ribs; there were no tears – she was too dehydrated; but dry heaving sobs shook her so violently that her diaphragm had a spasm which stopped her breathing all together. They lay, mother and son, on the spotless parquet, curled and motionless. After some time her muscles released and her lungs swelled again, but she was not conscious for it. When her body was lifted by neighbors and carried down the stairs she could not recall the smeared passing of walls and doors. She did not remember her son being wrapped in a towel and taken out behind her. It was not until her body was shaken awake by the train did any sort of recollection re-enter her memory. Shiku-shik, shiku-shik, shiku-shik… slowly the train wound its way east, around the blockade, it headed to the Urals where the war was nothing but a story in the letters of the local boys conscripted to place their bodies in the way of enemy bullets with the hope that the latter would run out before the former. Whoever survived a day wrote a letter home proclaiming his love of country, his willingness to die even though the wounds are not so bad and the spirit is high and that mother, you should be proud that I am protecting Mother Russia and helping rid the world of Fascism. In the Urals life went on, there were quotas to fill for production, there was no time to sit and grieve – work will set you free.

She could not for the longest time recall why she awoke one day in the sun and crisp mountain air of the Urals. How did I get here? Why did they send me here? Where is my husband? Is he alive? Is Leningrad destroyed? Where is my son? Where is my son? WHERE IS MY SON?! But there was no one to answer her, though there were hundreds of people around, to most her voice was a distant echo, something surreal from the world where people were warm, had bread and water and slept without fear of midnight shelling. To those lying around her the only reality was the burning in their guts, the blood in their mouths from parched lips, the immense pressure in their skulls at which they scratched with whatever strength they had – just to relieve it for a moment.

Slowly, after someone put softened bread through her mouth and after awakening from sleep that came of natural exhaustion, she began to remember; images commenced their flurry and finally settled into recognizable formations. She saw the communal apartment, the tiny room where she lay after the factory shift was over, caressing her bulging belly. She saw the kitchen she shared with 5 other families, the toilet, the shower which would refuse to run hot water, even in the rare instances when the government allowed it to flow. She saw the emptiness that filled the bed for most of the year, remedied only once every few months when her husbands train brought him back to the northern capital. It was on one of those fateful returns that the seed would be lain, the seed that would drain her of her last reserves of strength, the return that would burn in her mind the last image of her husband – hero of the Soviet Union, First Order of Lenin – a model communist and soldier, we thank him for his service to his country, we are sorry however that there are no more bread coupons available for you, we know you are pregnant, we know but we cannot help you, trust in comrade Stalin and remember your husband died for him and for you.

"расцветали яблони и груши, поплыли туманы над рекой..."


  1. I think this one tops my list. Of all your writings which i have read, with this one you have managed to paint a most vivid and emotional picture, it is beautifully written and undeniably real.

    -eagerly awaiting more to read

  2. Thank you anonymous!
    I hope to not disappoint as I continue to plunge into the depths of the Russian-Jewish via deloroso.
    Thank you for reading and for your support!