Volodya Shukher and Igor Grimblit
LETS GET BACK TO THE SCHOOL KIDS, THOUGH
IIn the photographs taken in the schoolyard, next to the math teacher, you can see the mug, and sometimes the whole figure of Volodya, who, with dignity and good humor all through our school years, and actually throughout his entire life, bore the last name of Shukher (Scram). He was a straight-A student, a volleyball player, a Communist Youth leader. The latter you can plainly see if you take a look at another photo of him. This is 8th or 9th grade: hes on the left of Igor Grimblit in the corridor of School 59.
Occasionally I would go and root for Volodya and his team, playing in a neighborhood volleyball game. For a while these games took place in the courtyard of the house with columns in Sivtsev Vrazhek, corner of Starokoniushenny Pereulok.

And in the next photo is another school buddy of ours, Seriozha Genkin. Here also is a copy of his obituary in a Boston newspaper: all is true, back in his school years he was renowned for his talents in math and had a knack for beating everyone in chess.
He was also a poet, and wrote verse
He lived near the school in a two-story wooden house on the corner of Plotnikov Pereulok and Sivtsev Vrazhek. Now a modern office building occupies that spot. As I was writing this, an old joke that Id recently heard at RSPP (I believe, from Vasya Shakhnovsky) inadvertently came to mind:

Little Red Riding Hood knocks on Grandmas door; the Wolf opens the door.
And where is Grandma? asks Little Red Riding Hood.
The Wolf thinks about it, picking his teeth. Oh, yes, some kind of old lady used to live here, but now its an office
Only now, from the obituary in the Boston newspaper, did I learn that Seryozhas parents were sent to the camps, and that he was raised by his aunt. Strange, we were classmates. Often after school, we would get together in each others homes to play chess, but knew nothing of each others parents lives.
Going through negatives and prints of more than half a century ago, I came across several negatives of deplorable quality that have never been printed before. After painstakingly touching them up with the help of Photoshop, I wanted to show them here.
The first one, taken near Seryozha Genkins home, probably shows his relatives, including the aunts on his fathers side mentioned in the obituary, the ones that fed him and raised him.
This photograph is of horrible quality, and probably no one who was in it is alive any more; no one has ever seen this photo, but suddenly I want to publish it. Why, I couldnt say. Perhaps because I learned from the obituary that Seryozha is survived by his children in America. Maybe they will read this memoir and would get a glimpse of the life of their father, a very good man, and of their other relatives and their tragic fate so typical for those living in Russia. Or perhaps out of a vague sense of duty from a survivor to a gifted school friend, untimely gone, and now far from the Arbat.
One remembers the words of Joseph Brodsky, who said that a man who lived out his life in Russia deserves to go straight to Heaven.
And one more picture with Seryozha in it.
It is graduation day from 7th grade, the last day at School 61. He is on the right next to the math teacher, Boris Dmitrievich, which makes sense since Seryozha was a talented mathematician. But I cant remember how Igor Berukshtias and I got there, two troublemakers who had caused Dmitry Borisovich great displeasure. I picked this photo because of the blissfully joyous smile on Igors face. Even back then, it was possible to divine his future: his decision to flee the Soviet Union, the amount of garbage that was poured on him in newspapers, his becoming a famous musician in the West! He is living out his life somewhere in Germany now.
But I want to keep looking at that childish smile

 

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