by Natalia Butova
19 May 2017
It seems simple – this is the place where I was born, and it has geographical coordinates, like any other place on our land.
But no, unfortunately, my HOMELAND does not exist anymore. It remained only in my heart and in my memory. And from there sometimes slip memories, sharp, painful, piercing consciousness with the thought that all this has disappeared irrevocably …
The smell …
Delicious and tantalizing – bread from the local bakery, for which we ran during breaks, holding out a coin and begging the aunty to give us an especially hot loaf, so much that you burnt your fingers when you bit off a piece… and we enjoyed the slightly sour, rich flavor of cabbage soup and porridge, that our grandmother fed us. She gently and carefully extracted the iron pot from the stove, making this simple but at the same time such a delicious and fragrant dish, of which we always asked for more.
And these warm and familiar smells of spring land in the garden, cows lazily coming from the pasture, summer twilight and fog.
Sounds. Somewhere a cow mooed, a tractor drove past the outskirts of the village, a neighbor’s cock crowed. All these everyday responses of past childhood – this is my HOMELAND.
It is so sad and painful to understand that you will never pass on those paths where you knew every bump, every bush and every tree in the nearest forest. You can never swim in the pond behind the house, you will never see the faces of your neighbors, you won’t hear their conversations. I remember I was very fond of sitting with needlework, listening to the stories of neighbors who came to my grandmother’s house almost every day. The old women talked so interestingly and simply about their long-lived life – about the war, about work, about their worries and holidays, that there was a feeling that you yourself experienced all this with them.
In general, the spirit of unity in the village was much stronger back then – what is simply the memory of a piece of paper hung at the height of summer on the door of the local library: “Closed, gone haymaking,” and we, both children and adults, understood that haymaking is much more important than our desire to take or give back a book, and we did not condemn the librarian for what she would now call “using her time for personal purposes”.
And how, for a long time, the people would start to gather near the store, waiting for the bread truck, how much news and talking there was: who visited where, who had children to visit, who had traveled to them and now shared with the neighbors the cares of the young. When, at last, the truck drove up, the peasants helped to carry trays with bread to the counter, and the women laid it on the shelves. It was somehow taken for granted, no one was waiting for the seller and the driver to do it.
And these houses – well-groomed gardens and vegetable gardens beside them, with flowers and lilacs under the window, with benches, on which we sat in the evenings to listen to the nightingales. Yes, all this will not return. The houses are lopsided and decayed. The roads and paths are covered with weeds and grass. People who lived in them are long gone to another world, and the children grew up and went off wherever. In their place came strangers, and those who stayed are no longer so together and united as it was before. The spirit of unity is lost irrevocably …
“Butov” Homestead, Pskov regionvk.com/id111168308