Page 11 - February 2021
P. 11

                                    STORY OF A METAL BOX
                                    STORY OF A METAL BOX

                   of their whole family to survive the Holocaust, simply because they
                   were not there at that time: she had been living in London, and my
                   father  had  escaped  from  Riga  to  Russia  a  couple  days  before  the
                   Nazis came. After the war my father started corresponding with his
                   sister, at great risk to himself, because in those years a Soviet citizen
                   was  not  allowed  to  have  relatives  abroad,  let  alone  to  correspond
                   with  them.  Later,  after  Stalin's  death,  my  English  aunt  and  her
                   husband came to the USSR every year, not so much to visit my father
                   as to be in the land they loved. Not having experienced Communism
                   on  their  own  skin,  they  liked  the  Soviet  way  of  life  so  much  they
                   referred to themselves as “pink’, i.e. almost – but not quite - ‘red’, as
                   was the fashion among British “fellow travelers” of the time.
                   But to get back to the little metal box with pictures of stamps from

                   those exotic Western countries a Soviet citizen could visit only in his
                   dreams.  This  box  must  have  come  from  my  English  aunt,  just  as
                   another metal box I remember from my earliest childhood, the one
                   decorated  with  pictures  of  equally  exotic  English  sweets.  I  haven’t
                   seen  that  other  box  since  our  departure  from  the  Soviet  Union  in
                   June 1972. When I was five, we spent two summer months in Asari, a
                   Baltic resort near Yūrmala, Latvia. My brother and I spent our days at
                   a  beach,  collecting  amber  washed  onto  the  shore.  We  walked
                   barefoot on wet sand and pebbles, and every time we found a small
                   piece of what looked like amber, we put it into that other metal box,
                   the one with pictures of English sweets. By the end of our stay, the
                   English box for exotic sweets was filled with exotic amber. If you held
                   a piece of amber in your hand and looked at it closely, you could see
                   a dark sun playing inside it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m confusing the

                   summer in Asari with the summer in Svetlogorsk – I was five in Asari
                   and four in Svetlogorsk. Both were on the Baltic coast, and perhaps it
                   was in Svetlogorsk that my brother and I were collecting amber on
                   the  shore.  My  father  stayed  in  Moscow,  so  it  was  just  our  mama
                   taking care of the two of us, and I remember that every day, at three,
                   she took us to someone’s house where there was a long table, with
                   many people sitting at both sides of it, and where we ate dinner

        litterateur                                                                February 2021
   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16