"Mum, Light the Lamp up"
Author: Alexander Gurinov
(translated from russian)
I can’t get up today. I don’t know why it hasn’t happened to me before. I’ve had a dream of you, Mum. You asked me why I hadn’t come for such a long time, if I had forgotten. No, I haven’t. Why I didn’t come – I don’t know. I’ve never thought of it, always considered to have enough time, that you would wait for me and we’d talk about everything, and you might stroke my head just like you did in my childhood… – I haven’t come to you, Mum. But I’ve been always going to you, though somehow nobody has seen it. Maybe because I was going to you the way the others don’t. My own way. The way that led me farther and farther away from home and you. But I thought I was going the right way – Mum, do you remember the camp in Kloog? Do you remember that SS-woman who spat in every bowl before she put skilly in it? Perhaps she wasn’t older than you. Nor much younger. – You have had five of us. What do you think, did she have any kids?... Weare taken somewhere. Where? The barge. Grey waves rumple the low side of the barge and flow down with streams and large drops. At home I used to like watching waves hit the sides of the tied up boats. Here I don’t… There, up in the sky, there are planes. They meet, part, go up high, nearly touch water. They are so busy with themselves they hardly ever notice us. But you are scared for all of us, you don’t turn your eyes away from the sky and you hold us tight. Mum, I am older than all of them, I don’t need to be protected! It’s me who must protect you. – Who’s that woman, Mum? Why is she looking at me like this? Let her go – I don’t want to see anybody. – Oh yes, she’s got out, she is making some noise in the kitchen, looking for something. – What is she telling me? I don’t understand. That’s weird, I used to speak Russian well, without an accent. – She’s gone, Mum. It’s better this way. The Finnish language is very similar to ours though not all the words are familiar. And the way they speak sounds funny. But here, at school I do study, though I’ll have to work soon enough. The farm owner has got a big family, and his sons are in the army. It will be easier on you now. And let the sisters study. Mum, whom the Finns are fighting for? You say neither for the Russians nor for the Germans. – I’d better work, Mum. What if they take me to the brick factory in Tohmayarvi… Mum, why has Volodia died? He was the youngest. It’s old and sick people who die, soldiers get killed at war and with bombs from planes. But we are not being bombed and we aren’t starving. We’ve got bread and potatoes. And yet he’s died… - Mum, why are we Russians if we speak Finnish? You also say that we are Izhoras*... - I say I’ll go to Russia to Vystyno. And they say that then I‘ll go not to Vystyno but to Siberia. They say for me to go to Sweden, it’s better there. Thereis a sea as well. But what will I do there? You didn’t want us to get parted but we did. Why did you leave me? – Arvo says I am good and he wants me to stay with him, one of his sons have been killed. He promises that when I grow up I can marry his daughter. To hell with them, the girls. I want to go home, to Vystyno. He does say I will be sent to Russia. Then why is she looking away and sighs? I want to go home myself, don’tI? - Why don’t they let me in? The frontier guards don’t. They say something in Russian but I’ve forgotten so many words. They laugh, wave with their hands to go away. But I’ve come back under the carriage. Nobody has seen me. Our neighbours, Russians, have told me not to go home because we are being exiled. But I’ve come and we haven’t been exiled. – I am studying in the nautical school, Mum. How are you there? The sisters must be getting married. I miss you so much. Have you heard from Dad? – This woman is here again and says something again. Today her eyes are really strange and I don’t understand what she wants from me. I don’t feel well, Mum. Lethergo. But I’ll come to you and everything will be all right. I haven’t visited you for ages but there’s been some story here – You are angry with me and you are crying but what can I do? They are military seamen and I am a fisherman. They don’t like tradesmen and fishermen. – What does chukhna** have to do with it? Thanks to the sisters that they have brought me. – My face will heal. Don’t cry, Mum. – Why did you go to Narva? I wish you lived in Vystyno. No, she’s left me. She says I drink too much. That’s what she says. Let her go, I don’t keep her. To hell with her! Anyway I’ve never met anybody better than you are. You always used to understand me even when you were angry with me. I love you, too, just don’t know how to say it. – No, we’ve divorced, and don’t see each other. I live alone. – What do you want from me? Nobody will feel better. Please, don’t cry. – I’ll come soon, I’ll just visit my boys before… Mum, there is no news from Dad? The sisters marry their kids already. They are angry with me. And feel ashamed of me. That’s all right, Mum, I am good for nothing and there is nothing you can do about it. Of course, I will definitely come soon. I’ll be home for the whole month, then we’ll talk. I promise. And no friends. – They told me, Mum. Why didn’t you wait for me? I am all the time near here. Narva, Ivangorod – it’s just 5 minutes away. How come, Mum? – She’s here again. And there is somebody else. I don’t see them very well. I just don’t want to. But I feel fine now, because I am coming. I know where to find you and I know you’re waiting for me. Here, now, Mum, where is your hand? Give it to me. – But why is it so dark? Mum, light the lamp up…
* Izhora – Finno-Ugric people
** chukhna - depreciatingly, this is the way the Russians call the Finish and the Estonians that live in the St. Petersburg region "