The children in the main picture are some of us.
Luckily, we are all fine twenty years later, although the last time I met the girls – my father’s little sister’s daughters – happened more than a decade ago. The boy, Uncle’s youngest son, no longer lives in the house, as he started a family of his own in the village, but still do work there, keeping the ancient ways work.
Them three, the boy’s older brother and sister, and my father’s little sister is the happy gang I spent those magic summers with, helping Grannie around the house and Uncle and Auntie around the farm, but mostly playing. They were also the first to call me Misha. As Smena only showed up in the ’90s and it couldn’t take selfies, and because some of them were not comfortable with having their pictures taken, we’re all together there solely in our memories.
So we are fine as we speak, but many of our people passed out.
Down the sloppy road, on the property of the neighbor with a lucky fountain, there is this merely marked place of a tomb. It’s our grandfather’s grandfather remains under there. He was a tall man, big as a mountain, with blue eyes and large hands, that nobody knows anything for sure about, except he gave his name of Slavic resonance to his entire kin, being the first of us known living on these lands. Next to him are buried his wife and one of his sons. In the orchard belonging to the house up to the sloppy road, there’s a white tombstone on which time and chalk erased the inscription. There lie the remains of our grandfather’s parents. That was the tradition back then, to bury the people where they were born and lived their lives.
For a long time I thought that the tombstone in the orchard belonged to a hero, our grandfather’s little brother, a student in law, who volunteered in the second world war, came home with permission, refused a job at the town hall, went back and died on the battlefield. He was 21 years old and the first intellectual in a row that included my father and his little sister. It’s only recently that I found out that his body was never returned to his lands, as he fell in the Caucasus and most probably buried in one of those mass graves the earth is filled with. His father, though, made him a memorial inside the bigger village’s church. Right in front of the altar, there’s a stone that says In memoriam I.S., hero in the WWII, God rest his soul.
Our grandfather died while communism was taking over, after long years spent in defending his property. He was a passionate man knowing well the value of the right principles. Our grandmother lived to meet and pamper us, she raised some of us from the very first day, she spoiled us, the others, during magic summers and she even met a few of her great-grandchildren. The pictures I took of her date from the summer she died. She was 80 years old; she apparently had no serious health problems, and she cooked for us the greatest lucskos (cabbage soup) the day she passed away at sunset. Both our grandparents rest in the bigger village cemetery, next to the church they used to visit every Sunday. Near their grave, there is their elder daughter’s, who also lived most of her life at a house not far from her parents’ and had four kids of her own, of whom two are now successful modern farmers.
And many others are no longer among us. Some present ones are preparing to leave as well.
Some others moved to the city and never came back. And a few are still there, living more or less like their ancestors did one century ago.
This is my incomplete and humble tribute to all of them.
One day, after gathering all information, I’ll write a book for those to come.
For there is nothing worse for a man than forgetting his roots.
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