A photo in the yard
What did we know about peaceful life? Nothing. All we knew was war, as we grew up as its children and we had nothing to compare it with.
The pictured on the photo are my playmates: Alik Latinsky, Valya Karavaev, Borya Ratimov and the author (that’s me) who is not pictured. Like other hundreds of thousands boys, born before the war, we felt the devastation and hardships around us as the only way of existence possible. We took the pre-war time for granted as well as the fact that many of us had or used to have fathers. Their deaths or wounds – and the grief by mothers – was not much clear to us, as we lost what we did not have. The suffering and crying of the survived parents for the dead and maimed was part of our childish inconvenience, and nothing else.
And the dead and wounded relatives became a deeply concealed and yet absolute measure of not only “civic” (then the word was used in the sense of “non-military”) dignity, but also of one’s own value in the yard community. Orphans were secretly envied.
Now it’s shameful and awkward to admit that.
We climbed around the ruins, collected the artillery powder, helmets, cartridge cases; we played with real guns and shouted with a joy “You are killed!” It was honorable but boring to be killed and so we got up to take part again in the process of life, which meant war for us.
Victory Day, happy for many adults who thought the most difficult hardships were behind, was the beginning of unbelievable suffering and grief for children. My father, who returned home on clutches, could not take me on his shoulders, like Borka’s father did. And yet I could go beside him, while Valka did not have that opportunity.
We began to compare.
The values that seemed to be unconditioned to us – boldness, self-sacrifice, heroism – were gradually losing grounds. We saw that the families of veterans and of the killed soldiers lived worse than those who had supported soldiers ‘morally’. We saw egg powder, jam, canned stewed meat from “American presents” not reach the widows. We saw beggars-invalids and orphans turning into thieves. We saw it and we felt it as a norm, as continuation of war adopted by us with the suck.
And we were happy, along with that.
The photo made by me with a trophy Zeis-Icon in a Kiev’s yard in 1946 is an evidence of that.
”The lens cannot remember either achievements or offences, it’s only the film of memory to keep the eternal inside of changeable” wrote Vincent Sheremet.
I present to you what the celluloid film has managed to preserve.