The following piece was written by a teaching colleague of mine, it was published in 2003 in the Almaty Herald. Many of my teaching friends and colleagues have stories like this, Yuliya Chulkova is skilled in articulating her family story in writing.
In memory of Seitkhanov Zainulla, a Scientific Adviser of Kazakhstan Education Minister, repressed in 1938.
Dedicated to all victims of Stalin’s repressions.
1938, International women’s day, a holiday. Mother and Father have just come from the solemn meeting and the party at Narcompros (People Committee of Education). They both worked there. Mother’s blue-green silk stockinet dress on the hanger is still exhaling the perfume “The Kremlin.” They have changed into home clothes and are discussing something at the teatable in the adjacent room. Mother as usual know everything better, she is always like this.
Father is different, he always takes little Nelya everywhere; to the toyshops and bookstalls and even to his business trips. Nelya has already been to Moscow with him. He left her at the children’s room for the night and morning, she was a kindergarten child, and found new friends there very quickly; and the toys were better than in Almaty; big green and red celluloid dolls, big green and red rubber balls and string net bags, big light wooden figures for building castles and all kinds of swings.
In the afternoon they visited Mausoleum where Lenin is sleeping. People were very quiet and solemn there; they had to stand a long time in a long, long line. It was interesting to watch people and things around. The smartest were horses carrying light droshkies; they had black things from both sides, lest they should get frightened as Father said, and hats yellow and while protecting them against the sun. In the kindergarten other children didn’t believe that.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Everything and everybody got very quiet. There was another knock. “What’s up?” It was becoming interesting. In the nightgown, barefooted Nelya tiptoed to the door which was ajar, and saw two men polite and serious unsmiling saying something to Father, then one of them started looking for something on the bookshelves. Batima, Nelya’s 13 year old aunt, kept staring at everything with enormous round eyes. Mother was pale, and then she rushed to the bedroom almost knocking Nelya off her feet and reached for Father’s suitcase.
“Oh! Another business trip!” Nelya was quick, her traveling toys were ready tied together. Motehr did not pay attention to her. Having pulled out all the drawers out of the drawing chest, she was picking out a shirt here and some underwear there; when she came to socks many of them needed darning, she couldn’t match them and sank on her heels sitting with her head lowered and tears swelled in her eyes and started dropping on her hands. There was something wrong.
Nelya put her toys into the suitcase herself. Father rushed into the room dressed, looked at the open suitcase, threw out Nelya’s toys without a word and then caught mom’s shoulders from behind and said that it’s a mistake, that it’s a gross error. “They’ll set that right when they understand it.”
Then all the adults went out. Batima turned off the light to see better everything in the yard. And both Nelya and Batima watched with their noses pressed against the window glass: papa kissing mom, mom as white as her nightgown. That was the last time Nelya saw her father. She was in her fifth year. Her father died in Stalin’s prison for nothing.
Twenty years later, she got married just on the Eighth of March and only then came to know why her mother had never liked the International Women’s Day holiday.
Re-typed from The Almaty Herald #34(391) August 21-27, 2003