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Date Posted: 07:32:03 10/13/09 Tue
Subject: The Pioneer Who Believes in God. Joanna’s Page 10. Door 1
The Pioneer Who Believes in God. Joanna’s Page 10. Door 1
The lines of white shirts, short-haired heads and braids with many coloured bows stayed across the Red Square up to the tribunes. Yana was looking around and could see behind herself columns of people moving from the Okhotny Ryad as if somebody wrote straight lines on a sheet of paper; they were lower and lower up to the present-day State Department Store.
It was a square-page covered with writing. Phrases, words and letters were heard. Groups of children were seen, and she, Yana, was among them as one of thousand letters! From the right and the left sides and behind her the same children-letters were standing; they are small but very respectable. They were standing shoulder to shoulder. Yana can feel their warmth and breathing and knows they can feel the same things.
An unseen and inspired voice from castellated Kremlin wall was flying over the square:
“I’m a young pioneer of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics... The square repeated it ringing and resounding echo. Scared doves were flying up and make circles over people’s heads.
“I swear to live and study, so that I can become a worthy citizen of my socialist Homeland...”
Then a command sounded, “Put on your pioneer ties.”
And the square miraculously began to blossom with scarlet fires of pioneer ties. In expectation of her turn to go out of the line and approach the young pioneer leader Misha with resolute step Yana nearly fainted with emotion. But when this moment came, and Misha twisted her neck with flame-coloured and rustling silk, Yana suddenly realized that from this time on a different wonderful life should begin for her where there would be no place neither for Luska, nor for raids to Kolkhoz garden, nor for C marks for arithmetic, nor for lie, nor for all kinds of foolish tales.
She swore. She would become worthy.
It came to pass that in a few days she decided to be baptized together with Luska’s brother Vitya and make another the most important vow, not to Xenia’s god but to God of the priest who came to baptize Vitya and who told Yana to make a vow to behave, obey her mum, not tell lies, study well, love her Homeland but first of all God and her neighbours, i.e. comrades as Yana understood. She loved God as it was though the priest’s God was stricter than Xenia’s.
At the end of the war it was announced that God not exactly existed and not exactly was opium for people as it had been considered before but he was something like a fairy from the film ‘Cinderella’ and a protector of truth and justice. You know that Fairy was not a simple fairy but Cinderella’s cousin, and there was a magic country in the film looking like God’s Kingdom where all wishes were coming true.
“The terrible Judge exists, and he is waiting.
He is not accessible for ringing gold.
He foreknows all thoughts and deeds...”
That is God still remained in a fairy-tale dimension but he became a positive personage and our Soviet God. He helped to defeat Germans, saved in battles, sent bitter frosts to Russia to destroy manpower and military equipment of the enemy. Before God supposedly helped ‘dark forces’ that maliciously oppressed people to swindle and rob common working people but now God ‘re-educated himself’ and came to our side.
In short, God was a fairy tale but this fairy tale became a good one. Churches became to open but very few of them remained whole, and tender-hearted priests in civilian attires visited towns and villages consecrating houses, listened to confessions and gave communion to those who wished it, collecting written requests for the health and for the repose and baptising children of war at their homes. It was done in a stealthy way, almost illegally, but it was done, and authorities shut their eyes to it. And once Luska being puffed up with pride informed Yana that tomorrow on Sunday a priest would come to their barracks, and everybody would pray that the war would finish, that nobody wouldn’t be wounded and killed; he will exorcise devils from their barracks and then baptise children. She and Vitya would be baptised, Yasha and Svyeta too, and squinting Marina from the third barracks...
“And me?” Yana fainted.
“My mother said that your mother wouldn’t allow because she was a Jew.”
Yana rushed home in tears making ready for hard fight but her mum unexpectedly said, “Your father is baptised. You are grown already; it’s for you to decide.”
She got a clean undershirt out of the commode, gave some money for a candle and a crucifix and wrote a confirmation for a priest that she didn’t mind to ‘baptismal ritual’ of her daughter.
All children had godparents. As her godmother Yana called Fairy, her kindergarten teacher in an evacuation zone. But she didn’t remember her name and named her Xenia. And she imagine granny Xenia in a white dress, in a wreath a flowers, how she flew to God but her face was young and girlish like Fairy’s from the kindergarten, and in her hands she kept a magic stick and could make miracles as Cinderella’s Fairy could.
During her baptism Yana amazed everyone reciting ‘Our Father’.
Nobody told her that a pioneer shouldn’t believe in God or that an Orthodox believer shouldn’t join pioneers. Maybe, she was lucky but when she only once saw profiles of Lenin and Stalin on the first page of her ABC-book she realized that on the first page there should be the One Who created everything and Who was everywhere, everything and always.
It so happened that from the first steps of her life God, the Homeland and the Leader took right hierarchical places in her being.
She took a vow to God, her Homeland and the comrade Stalin. She would become worthy.
It would really be an amazing life. Meetings, campfires, sport contests and pioneer camps would catch up and carry the pioneer and later a Komsomol member Yana Sinegina. Somehow it would come that she soon become an activist, a chairman of the council of the Young Pioneer unit, a Komsomol organizer and in the end an editor of the school wall newspaper ‘The Eaglet’.
And before going to sleep she as usual prayed ‘Our Father’, for her Homeland, for Stalin and for her neighbours. God was in heaven, the Homeland and the comrade Stalin were on the earth, and that was all. Not God but earthly church was a taboo for her then. There dwelt malicious old women in black, and in general everything was incomprehensible there. It seems that reading of Gogol’s ‘Viy’ influenced her, though the author repudiated it at the end of his life.
Somehow it would come that from then on she would be in full view of everybody, and it would become improper for her to get threes or fours; she would have to become a high achiever. And it would be impossible not to defend the sportive honour of her school in relay races, 100-metre sprints and in jumps: she would have to torture herself in a sports hall.
And it would come that in this new, diverse, full of content and swift life she wouldn’t have a free moment; she would have to limit it by granite banks of strict regimen: lessons, sports and public work. She would come home only to overnight and change her clothes; she would have launches at a school dining hall and study at a public reading hall.
It would seem to her that it suited her mother and stepfather. By then the stepfather appeared already. Were those her best years? Maybe, it was so. She had no doubts, anxieties and agonizing fruitless thoughts but only action or energy of an oarsman going with the current and being sure of rightness of a river bringing him to his cherished goal. She would be sure that she lived rightly, and so she was happy. She wrote articles, feuilletons, fables and stories from school life. Every year she got prizes for the best wall newspaper in the district and heard the words that had become an axiom ‘an extraordinary talented girl, the pride of the school’. And she icily reproved boys who already began to keep their eyes on her; only friendship was possible between them! Leo Koshman in his narrow and greasy jacket and yellow fingers because of smoking; he would seem to her as coming down straight from Olympus.
“I’m from a district newspaper ‘Flame’. We have decided to propose you to become our out-of-staff reporter; you will report the life of not only your own school but other Komsomol organizations, in general, perform tasks of the editorial board. Do you agree?”
“But she is overburdened even without it,” the school manager Maria Antonovna exclaimed, “and in addition to it she studies in a senior class.”
“I agree, Yana screamed in an altered voice, “dear Maria Antonovna, I will cope with it!”
An again Yana in the same cheerful and swift way shoots through that life of hers.
The communist moral code was her sincere belief agreeing with her conscience and with the Law inscribed in her heart, High thoughts, inner spiritual ascension, all people are good, the only thing is that they must be brought up, care for their needs and justice, moral purity, disapproval of her own and others’ egoism, avarice, narrow-mindedness, unnecessary luxury – all of that agreed with her inner religiousness.
Very early did she understand that most of people are foolish sheep but authorities and intelligentsia. i.e. guards who keep them from consequences of original sin or ‘vestiges of the past’ and who are called to be a bridge between Heaven and folk mass ‘to cultivate reason, kindness and eternal values’. Not without reason the word ‘culture’ originates from ‘cult’, i.e. service to Heaven.
Her memory fixes moments and chaotic fragments of some lessons, meetings, conferences, school editorial board and trainings. She gets to the summer of 1951 when she was prized with a voucher to pioneer camp Artek or sits on an overturned lifeboat; at her feet a see is splashing, the see all in fiery sprays of the sun that is broken against the horizon. Nearby there is the brown-eyed little girl Madlen, a daughter of a French communist. With genuine interest she is questioning about the situation with communist in France but Madlen suddenly lays her hand on her head and whispers diligently pronouncing Russian words.
“I have a boy in France, a boy, understand? Amour. I miss him, understand?
And here is another summer in prestart fever she is hanging around a stadium tribune; she wants to mingle with the crowd of fans and run away.
She always shook before starts, before exams and first lines. It was fear before start.
“Partakers of 1000 metre race, on your marks!”
With her peripheral vision Yana can see profiles of her rivals. O God, if only she not came last of all! She has no right to let her school down. O Lord, help! Her toes stick into chalky start line and grow into the ground; every heat of her heart nails them deeper and deeper like a hammer. It seems that no power will pull her toes out of the red crushed brick, and it will be horror and shame. O Lord, help!”
She doesn’t hear a shot of a starting gun but suddenly understands that she runs already, swifter and swifter. Her rivals are running behind her. Ahead the second turn is seen, and Yana knows that there she will weaken, and after the third turn a hell on earth will come. To her last breath will she swallow burning hot air, and pains in her side will become unbearable but she should bear everything. Then she will find herself in the first group of five; it was a task assign by the trainer. Worse result is impossible, or else they won’t be sent to a regional contest.
All the school is looking at her. O Lord, I can’t let them down, you know!
It’s the last turn. Everything is as ever. Daggers stick into her side, air burns her lungs, her rivals breathe to her back and can’t catch up with her.
“Yana, Yana,” she can hear yells from the tribunes like from a deadly abyss, and she runs along this abyss, though she should have fallen into it long ago, into desired cool immobility. She can’t run but runs, and there is nobody ahead.
“I can’t come in first,” thinks she or what has left of her, “it can’t be so. I’m dying. I don’t care it.”
She jumps over that deadly border, over ‘I can’t’ and runs.
She will come in first and show the best hour in her life. She will even manage to recover her breath and enjoy win laurels. But since that time she will leave off sport, and there will be left only deep admiration for those people, for their deadly combat with themselves, and perplexity: how can one bear such things for money?
I thank you, Lord, for my wonderful war and post-war childhood and for wonderful fairy-tale films. Though being beautified and childishly naive like Christmas stories and saints’ lives, they taught to be unselfish, selfless and courageous and warned against ruinous passions that were not proper for man’s high status.
I thank the Lord for wonderful operas: “The Swan’s Lake’, ‘The Nutcracker’, 'Guilty Though Guiltless’, ‘An Optimistic tragedy’ and ‘The Blue Bird’. Once a month a trembling and big-nosed bus drove us to Moscow to some culture events, and that culture of the Soviet and golden age originated from the word ‘cult’ and passed though censorship was instead of sermons for us because it itself came from preaching; it was an attempt to clean God’s image in man from piles of rubbish, dirt and madness. For her best qualities she was obliged to that censored culture, which in the conditions of thirst for religion was the ‘milk’ that was likely to save several generations from spiritual death.
Sifted out and forbidden performances, films and books, which she secretly searched for in her mother’s and library’s shelves, all those manuscripts and photocopies passing from hand to hand, and viewing underground films didn’t quench her thirst with the exception of Dostoyevsky, Bulgakov and Religious Revival of the Silver Age. They turned out to be short-lived, disturbing, depraving and bringing out the beast in people. In general, it was devilry.
I thank for kid lit books by Arkady Gaidar, Marshak and Boris Zhitkov, for ‘The Young Guard’, for fairy tales by Pushkin and Andersen published by vast amounts of copies as well as Leo Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, Lermontov, Pushkin. Of course, classic literature was also passed through censorship like Pushkin’s ‘Gabrieliade’ but the author himself would have been much obliged for that censorship.
I thank for the Soviet musicians Richter, Oistrakh and Hilels and for concerts by Igor Moiseyev. After them she wanted to live purely and honestly, become better and create bright future.
That world was simplified, primitive, beautified and hothouse (bloody showdowns took place even in that time). But we, little and grown-up children (the commandment ‘you shall become as little children’ was a feature of people with true Soviet upbringing) were diligently protected from storms, dirt, struggle for power, inconstancy, blood and passions, from all things that are called ‘worldly life’.
Being children of from five to seventy five years old, we knew that somewhere there is another life: catastrophes, struggle for power, gold and a place in the sun, unemployment, misery, mafia and other horrors, found out something from forbidden books, scabrous and evil ‘enlightening leaflets of the kind ‘read and pass to others’, from western broadcasting and foreign publications. As a rule we were protected from the things that should be repented of according the Orthodox canons.
We were protected from evil and from those who stood up for freedom of evil.
(to be continued).
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