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The Famine: Chapter 3 The Famine: Chapter 3
by Bohdan Yuri
2007-01-18 10:05:26
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I had been away too long, I reminded myself. --- No, I cursed myself. Having tasted the scent of free thought, I’d forgotten that Communism also muzzles the range of free speech, especially from Ukrainians.

I watched the car disappear towards its vanishing point. Remembering only that the officer appeared to be well fed. I returned to the house, still unsure whether I should have escaped with him. Then I looked at the red apple and knew my purpose

The second look carried fewer traumas as I had been immunized once, dulling the brutal spike of her condition. The little girl tried to speak again. This time I could barely make out a distorted word. However seeing that I’d misconstrued her message, she strained on perhaps her final reserves to raise her right hand.

I noticed a few strands of drying grass still clinging to her fingers. I looked again at her face, expecting her to speak. No sound came forth. She repeated the ritual until I’d realized that she was holding he last meal in her hand.

My sudden acuity reminded me of the apple. I reached inside my jacket for a pocketknife, a birthday gift from Petro, and cut open the apple. I placed a slice against her lips, she didn’t move. I squeezed it so that the juice would run into her mouth, a slight movement as she finally swallowed.

I looked around and found a broken plate in the corner. I mashed the apple pulp and fed to into her mouth. She closed her mouth and then her eyes. I was afraid she had died, but a subtle undulation kept her cheeks alive. It took forever for her to swallow a small portion. She choked slightly, I held her tight against my heart. I then gently wrapped her in the blanket, never forgetting what she looked like.

Darkness set into the room. Being around friends who smoked I always carried some matches. So I lit a fire in the hearth and clothed her with my linen shirt.

The rest of the night was spent feeding her and just holding her close, until we both fell asleep.

The next morning we prepared for our journey to Kryva together.

Suddenly, a shattering horror played its overture with unsteadying images. What if she were to fall apart as I lifted her? And Kryva was still a good three kilometers distance, and would the motion slowly disintegrate whatever glue still held her joints together? And what if the officer’s discern was actually envying her that he still had to remain behind while she stepped into eternal peace. My sudden disjointed rash was gaining impetus into complete irrationality, preventing my next move.

Finally, as her eyes opened and a fresh glimmer was noticeable I cast aside my exotic fears and drove my cause on instinct. After all, I was not trying to save the flesh so much as the spirit that had extended its struggle towards me. That fragile, though powerful soul was what I would be carrying with me, to Leningrad. There I would erase the dark memory of her past. I prayed to God for the mercy to allow her to survive.

I lifted her as tenderly as possible and remembered that the dead were stacked before the joints were broken. It was like lifting air. She was already floating in a senseless void that no longer had any purpose, except to breath. I covered her face to block the morning chill and steadily walked towards Kryva. Each step carried a tear as I finally cried for what I had seen earlier. It was the little girl that had made me remember that all the sorrow that I had seen yesterday was indeed real.

It was also on that day that I also vowed never to return to Ukraine until it could be made free. I could not bear to live a lie with the threat of such inhuman devastation, only awaiting a whimsical call from the Kremlin. Too few had resisted the Red Wave of Terror. And in the end the dead are only dead, while the living pretend to be real. I chose not to live a lie, sometimes wondering what sacrifice may have also been made for our escape.

Three weeks later, the doctor had assured me that Natalie, that was her name, was fit for travel. We boarded a northbound train for Leningrad, where the black market current would ensure our final escape from the Soviet Union. Still, I could not forget what the doctor had told me, that some desperate souls had resorted to cannibalism. I never dared to ask him where he had obtained his food.

Throughout the train ride as we both just stared out the window of our thoughts, silently recalling the nightmarish harvest of souls. The thought of revenge slowing built its force until finally overpowering me as we approach Leningrad. I was turned inside out. Who else was left to free my homeland if not I? Escape meant surrender, defeat. I’d always kept my distance with Stefan but perhaps it was time to finally join the Movement.

As Natalie and I disembarked at the Leningrad station I couldn’t help but notice the stenciled crates that were being loaded onto westbound trains. It seemed too absurd to be real, or was it too real to be absurd: --- “USSR Dairy Export.”


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Asa2007-01-19 10:58:32
Great story. Packs quite an emotional punch.

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