A Holiday Without Happiness
It is almost impossible to forget that gate, with blue paint withered and curled by time, only certain spots glistening with its sky-like bluishness, and under the falling crusts the walnut boards were visible like fresh wounds.
Mud walls, on both sides of the gate, eroded by rains, had left low hillocks that resembled graves. On the right corner of the top frame – a rusty red sign: “Here lives a veteran of the Great Patriotic War”.
“Lived” – the thought passes like lightning through my mind as my brother and I carefully knock on the gate. No one answers, but it turns out the gate is not locked, and there really is no need to, without walls the whole courtyard is accessible.
“Nobody’s home apparently,” – says my brother, while pushing the gate open. We enter a small courtyard that seamlessly turns into a little garden.
A typical house built in the late 1950s, during the relocation of residents of Mascho to wildlands, on the verge of total collapse – the plaster has fallen off exposing the raw bricks, the roofing has tilted, posts and pillars twisted and blackened by time.
A few feet from the old house, there is a new and a little smaller house that has been built. I remember the owner of that new construction, Abdukahhar-aka, a war veteran and an advanced/best/innovative collective farmer of the end of the Soviet era. He invested all of his life savings into the construction and wedding of his son, new family –new house. And so stand two houses, opposite each other, old and new.
Under the shelter of the new house, a sad, old woman was sitting. She did not react to our presence at all. Only later did it become clear that she was deaf and blind.
From inside came a woman, followed by a child holding onto the hem of her dress.
“My brother has come from far away, wants to say a prayer to bring peace to the soul…,”—said my brother as quietly as possible.
The woman, not much different looking than the old woman, perhaps having aged more than her years, nodded.
We squatted down and said a prayer, remembering the mighty, noble and wise Abdukahhar-aka. It seemed to me, that he stepped into the garden from the back of the yard and in our direction, with his usual broad smile. My heart ached painfully. I wanted to stand, but my brother touched my elbow—wait. With a melodious soft voice of his, he said another prayer for the repose of the soul. We touched hands to our faces, got up and left. The tears of old blind woman were streaming like rain.
Outside on the street, my brother explained that the veteran of war and labor, Abdukahhar Gaffarov, lived the end year of his life in difficulty and distress. “Fellow-villagers were helping, but he lived as though in another world, separated from everyone.”
“So he died alone and abandoned?” I could not imagine this happy and enthusiastic man under the weight of misfortune and sadness.
“Perhaps mainly due to the death of his beloved son,” –says my brother, while I was thinking of something else. I thought Abdukahhar-aka went into depression, when the collective farm fields, tractors and harvesters were taken by the new village oligarchs and thousands of people within an hour suddenly turned into tenant-farmers/laborers. May be, he, an old soldier, could not handle the sudden depreciation of honor and conscience to money and riches? The country he fought and got wounded for could not protect him from poverty and misery, because it disappeared from the world map. If not for my brother, I would have continued sketching the fate line of this fellow countryman. “His son was killed in Russia, he could not bear that,”—my brother uttered through tears.
Abdujabbar, the son of Abdukahhar, was killed in Russia by the skinheads, the newest fascists. Horror! Russian thugs killed the son of the man who saved Russia from the Nazis. May be it was not worth saving, so that these thugs would not have come into this world?
Contrary to the well-known slogan, “No one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten,” the Russians have forgotten that 250,000 Tajiks took part in the war against the Nazis, and approximately 60,000 of them received awards for military merit, 89 became Heroes of the Soviet Union or holders of the Soviet Union Order of “Glory” of the third degree. During all of the long years of the war, the economy of Tajikistan was working towards victory and the Tajiks themselves were sharing blood and bread with hundreds of thousands of fellow-citizen evacuees of the European part of Soviet Union.
If the authorities in Russia were fair and smart, they would have appreciated the contribution of other nationalities in the victory over Nazism and taken into account this unifying fact, and would have equated the death of every migrant as a fascist victory. It looks like the war against Nazism still continues on in this country, and, while the brown plague of 1941-45 was repressed by their fathers, today, their children are at war with this monster. The Russian society does not pay any attention to the victims of the monster, and with silent agreement takes part and contributes to rampant xenophobia. Thus, I do not know how sincere the Victory Day in this country is, with distribution of ribbons, big talk and its muscular parades.
As usual, after this holiday, begins the hunt on “foreigners”, not by the skinheads, but by the law enforcement agencies—the authorities. Detained are not those who attack migrants on the subway, but those who build high-rises, pave sidewalks, and sweep courtyards. Russia considers itself the heir of the Soviet Union, but does not perform the successor duties for the former citizens of the once unified country.
Later in the afternoon, together with my brother, we visited the village graveyard. Six or seven rows of graves have reached the end of the wall, and ever-smaller space is left. It was difficult to find my father’s grave. A new type of tombstone has emerged. On the graves of the young people killed in Russia, the villagers have decided to leave the tin boxes in which their favorite sons, fathers, and brothers were brought back. Monuments of Russian shame stand in a long line and there is a lot of them for such a small village. Among them is the “monument” for Abdujabbar, the son of Abdukahhar-aka, “From Russia with Love”, from the country, which no longer remembers the old war veteran.
Next, is the veterans own grave, who died a year after the death of his son. Right here, I wish there were a rusty sign: “Here lives a veteran of the Great Patriotic War”.
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