When I was a child, my grandmother (whose name is Mary) used to tell me a special story about her childhood. She is not one who tells stories, but this one is no doubt special to her. And after all those years, to me too.
She was a child, living in the Middle of Nowhere, in a place everybody forgot during war. Such happens to places that are too close to the borders; invasions (from whom, though?), wars, hunger. Back then, there was such a situation. People were generally poor, some families did not even have enough food to survive. My grandmother, though, had the luck of being part of a wealthy enough family: they owned farm animals that could provide food, therefore were not in hunger.
One side story is that my grandma used to steal some food from the basement, where it was stored, and secretly brought it to the people in need. Her mother knew it and never said a word, letting the little Mary bringing hope, and food, to people who needed it.
The real story begins when some Russians entered the small village, looking for a shelter. They found a place to stay at my grandma’s, who (as curious as a child can be) was very happy to have them there.
She was delighted when her mom tried to punish her for any misbehavior she might have had and they held her in their arms telling her mother “no”. They did not speak the same language, so verbal communication was not very intense. This made her feel the invincibility, because no matter what she did, the Russians would have protected her.
They also used to share their food with her. During their time together, they sat in circles talking, singing, telling stories. She was just enjoying the presence, and they fed her with typical dishes from the Soviet cuisine. She appreciated the new, exotic food as a whole. This made her even more interesting to them, who appreciated her young and funny company.
These guys were soldiers. I assume they were, on average, young as well. That is how one of them fell in love with Mary’s sister, who was a girl of “the right age”, as they used to say. Apparently, this guy liked her to the point he wanted to take her to Russia. I have no more details about this, but I like to picture it as romantic and sweet as I can.
The winter passed by, and soon enough (altho, if I recall correctly, it was more than one year later) war was finally over and time came to pack and leave again.
So they got their horses, all the stuff, and started their long trip back home. Mary’s sister never left; I am not sure how it went, but she stayed at her home while the guys, waving and saying hello and thank you, left towards their motherland, probably eager to see again the people they loved and their country.
So I grew up with this story, told me multiple times during my life. I feel like I have been there as well. The Russians, their food, how they protected my granny when she was a kid from her mother’s punishment, the cheery times, the songs, the company. I felt like I was there, sitting in circles together with them. I imagine them young, strong enough, happy to be there, enjoying life, laughing.
Some months ago, though, after all my life not having questions for some reason, I wondered if they kept some kind of contact. You know, maybe letters? Maybe they exchanged pictures? So I was curious, and asked my granny how it did end. Because, you know, I never asked before. Where did the guys go? How long did it take? Where are they now, do you maybe know, granny?
She looked at me and said: “they got as far as the border. The “other men” waited in ambush near the road; all of them were killed that same day”.