I recently received a package from the United States. I was not expecting one, and was puzzled when I found the claim slip in my mailbox. At the post office, I was handed a hefty package from, as it turned out, one of my English-language readers. He’s had my address, because he’s been sending stuff earmarked for the Donbass for a long time. The package contained books, journals, and letters translated from English to Russian using Google Translate. Chris, like I said, has been reading this blog using electronic translations, although there is an English-language site. However, the site only contains posts on the Donbass, while Chris reads the whole thing. We correspond in English, but he competently translates his letters into Russian.
A few days earlier, he donated $100 for the little Nikita in Lugansk who needs a glucose meter. And a few weeks before that, Chris donated money to help Zhenya and Lena.
There were several letters in the packet. Here’s one:
For your 22nd birthday, I decided to send you a book about the history of Moscow. It’s not your Moscow, but the Moscow of your grandmother, the one who hauled water out of a bomb shelter, and whose friends failed to return from the front. It’s the Moscow of your mom and dad. Perhaps this book will be useful to your daughter in a few years. A year ago, Tatzhit (a friend who reposts translations at Fort Russ) wrote me that he didn’t know what to get you for your birthday. That’s because he’s a Communist! I’m not, and therefore I can think of something good to get you. Unfortunately, I forgot about your Che Guevara t-shirt, well, perhaps another year.
[The translation does not quite capture the Google Translate orthography which is sufficiently baffling to make one wonder what the original letter actually said!]
In addition to the letters, the package contained two Time journals, from 1942 and 1955, with Marshal Georgiy Zhukov on their covers, and a big “History of Moscow” book published in 1965, beautiful, with glossy illustrations. And a few movies: Bogart’s Black Stripe in Russian, and a hand-labeled Quiet American by Bernard Freiser.
All of that was carefully packaged in a box wrapped in masking tape, so that nothing would get damaged. After 10 minutes of paging through the journals, I accidentally noticed that the box has Russian lettering, while the masking tape belongs to a Russian candy factory.
During the war, my grandmother worked in an orphanage bomb shelter that kept getting flooded. She had to bail the water every day with her bare hands. For some reason, mom says she did it barefoot, even though the floors were ice-cold. Probably because the water was knee-deep, and she didn’t want to damage her shoes. This cost my grandma her kidneys, and her health suffered for the rest of her life. Back then, in 1941, nobody knew whether Moscow would be held. She remained in the city, and her life was consumed by that bomb shelter, with its pails and rags that she carried up and down the stairs. She was an 18-year-old girl then. All of her classmates went off to war, and none returned. Not one.
I briefly mentioned this history in one of my reminiscences about my family and the Victory Day.
I’m in tears.