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.
n 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.