Sunday, May 12, 2013



     Grandma Velya really was sick. It was up to Rimka now to provide the necessities of life: food to supplement their meager rations 
and wood for fuel, as well as to keep house and her own sanity. She spent the years of war doing just that. Her father and his family came to live in Moscow, after the siege was lifted. He didn't have much to do with Rimka, but other relatives shamed him into helping her and his mother. In fact, her relatives took more and more interest in the young woman. They urged her to finish the nursing school, then to specialize as a lab technician She and the Grandma were still poor like the, let's say, the synagogue mice! Rimka went out with a few young men, but nothing serious ever came out of this. She was getting older, but in the country, where every third man died in the war, it was hard to find a suitable husband.


     Meyer felt the warmth of the sun on his shoulders through a thin civilian shirt. After seven years of soldiering, the civilian shoes still felt strangely light on his feet. The clanging of the trams and the women's voices on the street thrilled him. He was safe. He survived the war, the bombings, the cold and the hunger, the German attacks and the anti-Semitic bastards in the Russian army. After Germany surrendered, he was sent to the Far East. The Russian Army marched for hundreds of miles through Mongolia to the Japanese front, but the Americans bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the war was over. The army sent him to Siberia then, to build some fortifications. He survived that too, although carrying giant logs and living in constant cold and wetness undermined his health in ways he didn't even start to understand. But he went to war as a bookish, sickly young boy and came back as a strong, reliable young man. After a couple of years at home, his mother began to nag him to find a good Jewish girl and get married. In fact, right now he was going to meet a young lady recommended by a matchmaker.

     As my future father neared his destination, he noticed that the houses were getting shabbier and shabbier. The place, where he was going, was, really, just a little hut, sitting next to an apartment building. He knocked on the door - the lock was broken - and came inside. The pile of blankets on a bed in the darkened room moved, and a girl 's face showed up. He took in the huge, hungry green eyes, the hollow cheeks and a full lower lip. She was lovely. He introduced himself to her and the Grandmother, who slept on a large bed behind the stove. He made himself useful by chopping wood, then, for a little while, made small talk. The next day, he came back and repaired the lock and some other things in the house. After that he kept showing up, hoping to understand whether they belonged together. Most of the time, she was shy and even a little bit cold. When he met her relatives, he felt out of place. They had a cultured air about them, and he was from a simple family of craftsmen. Rimka didn't encourage him too much, but she was always there, when he called. He couldn't figure her out. Most of the time she was nice and proper, but, sometimes, she could be out of control, like when her Grandma took his side in an argument once, and Rimka smacked her across the face. Perhaps, he thought, she will mellow out in marriage.   

     One day, in the winter, they went to the store together. The new snow just fell, the streets were quiet and the air - crisp and almost ringing with anticipation. They started to throw snow balls at each other, then, breathless with laughter and exertion, stopped and kissed in the gateway.     

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