I can’t resist offering you a few pictures of Bolshoi Afanasyevsky Pereulok, taken from the very same spot near my house № 25, but almost 40 years apart. The left one is the work of my step-brother Zhenya and dates from September, 1968, when the residents were in the process of moving out, driven away by the impeding demolition of their building and construction of what was then called “The Generals” house. The woman standing next to the truck that is being loaded with our possessions is my mom.
In 1968 both the house and the street looked the same as in my school days at end of 1940’s, except the pavement used to be cobblestone instead of asphalt.
The right photo was taken in 2004.
In the photo of our old house you can see open windows in the top floor. These are the windows of our two rooms in the communal apartment we lived in since before the war.
1968 2004 196 8 2004
I passed my childhood in the din of typewriters. My mother and my two aunts who lived with us after the war – my mother’s and father’s sisters respectively – were typists-stenographers. This is my mother in the picture I took in the end of the 40-s. I am not going to list other inhabitants (of our two rooms, not of the apartment), but I want to mention another person dear to me, my nanny, whom I considered my second mother.
Nanny, Matryona Semyonovna Tsyganova, had been with us since the day I was born.
I spent my first post-war summer at her native village, Blagodatsky, in Orlov province, Sudbishchev region, Soviet kolkhoz “Novyi Put.” We would travel by ox cart for a whole day from the Yefremov station. Nanny would time it so that our arrival in Yefremov coincided with a market day, when she could meet her village friends. The war had passed through these lands, nanny’s village was occupied, homes were burned, and by the time I arrived, barely restored. Straw roofs, earth floor.
Among the villagers there were a lot of kids my age, and a lot of girls and women. To my surprise, the majority of the kids have not once seen a steam engine in their lives, or even a railroad. There were practically no men.
In these miraculously preserved, half-decomposed negatives, which I have never printed before, you can see the villagers to whom I probably promised I would bring their photos on my next visit. It was not meant to be. I was to print them for the first time only more than sixty years later. Is anyone alive? What were their names?
And this is a photo of probably the only man in the village, with his wife. I remember him. He was nanny’s brother, Lyosha, the blacksmith, in whose house we stayed. His shop was nearby. He was handicapped, missing a leg, and struggling with a prosthetic. He was at the front but a few hours. Considered himself lucky.
Before we left the village for Moscow, we found out that a war with Japan had just broke out. How and where we found that out – I have no idea: there was no telephone or radio in the village, or even electricity.


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