Posts tagged Barnaul

“A Long Way to Go” Natalya’s Grandmother

“A human without past is like a tree without root”- It may be not a Russian proverb, but Russian-speakers often mention it. When I was a kid, I could not understand why.


It is hard for me to imagine what happened to people during the Soviet period. It is much harder that it could happen to my parents and their parents. In our historical classes at school we learned a lot about Soviet Union. We have learned how much provision was sent to different countries during the times I want to speak about. I can not think of those numbers, it was hard thing to remember. Did I realize back then, that this was about the lives of my own family? It was the last thing I could think of.


Recently my mom told my some old story of my Grandmother. My Granny and her family lived in a Verh-Uba, village in the east Kazakhstan. Parents were working in the kolkhoz (something like farm). It was around 1935 in the culmination of Famine. Family included Grandmothers parents and little brother. Whole villages were starving and there was no wage for work. Though nobody could leave legally, because bureaucrats of kolkhoz kept all documents with them and it was not allowed to borrow them. Situation was very critical and my Grand Grandfather decided to escape the village. Follow the darkest night they held up everything they could borrow and ran away without knowing where to go. Though, they had to leave Granny’s brother, because he was very little, he would not survive the escape. But in the village relatives kept eyes on him. So they kept running from the places they could be found. If they are found nothing else matters, they were dead. Then they were just walking.  My mom does not know how long they were walking, and I can not ask my Granny, because she has not been with us for a long time.


 Finally they came to the small north city Barnaul. For information it will take about 20 hours to get from Verh-Uba to Barnaul by train. Or even more. It was a long way to go. But they had done that. Near that city Grand Grandmother had luck to get a job as a pig-tender. Where else can you go with no documents…? My Grand Grandfather, Grand Grandmother and Granny made up an earth-house with their own hands. A wage for a pig-tendering was skim milk which was initially to feed pig-babies. After that kind of stabilization Grand Grandfather returned to a village for his son. They turned back to a new home and lived there till mid 1940’s. They had returned to their village because the situation had changed. By returning, they found out that main kolkhoz building was burned to the ground.  That is why they get their documents restored, and the fact they run-away had gone.


After, the Second World War started. I wish I could ask my Grandma what was happening then. But I can’t. I think now I understand the true meaning of that proverb. My Grand Grandparents, what they have been through. Moreover, not just “been,” what they have survived through. If they made it that far, I can not give up either. I wish I could talk to my Grandma. I wish I could tell her that I won’t give up either, I have my long way to go. I would say that I have found their power of spirit in myself. That is the greatest thing you ever got, which keeps you going on. What would she answer me, then?

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