I decided to publish this letter that my father wrote to me from Siberia where he spent 5 years accused of Cosmopolitism during the Stalin era. He was fully rehabilitated after Stalin’s death and came home in 1956. He passed away in 1958. I was eleven at that time. I hope that after reading this letter you will understand why my father embraced the revolution. Every society where all the wealth is concentrated in a very few hands is prone to disorder, violence and revolution.
January 12, 1955
My dear son!
Although I have not received an answer from you on my first letter, I decided to write you a second letter. I am not upset that you did not answer me on my first letter. I know that you are very busy: you get up at 9 a.m., you have to get dressed, put shoes on, wash yourself, eat breakfast and then do your homework while your head is still clear. And of course how can you miss playing outdoors in fresh air? It is all important. In no time you need to go to school. There are other things to do after school: wash your hands, eat dinner and of course play outside. And then again homework – reading, writing, arithmetic. And mama is always there watching that everything is done good, neat, clean. And what about reading fairy tales? You need time for all these things. Days are not long enough. How can I be upset, my dear son, knowing all of these? Of course, not.
When you will grow up, then you will understand a lot, and how good, nice and warm your father feels reading tiny letters from his beloved first grade son.
To tell you the truth, at your age I did not read or write in Russian. It was not my fault. There was no school, especially for poor people. Nobody could afford to pay for education. Our family was big, we were poor. Your grandfather (my father) was a very sick man, and your grandmother (my mother) was sick. Of course, they worked but it was not enough. Times were very tough – it was before the revolution (before 1917), then it was civil war, destruction. Your teacher probably talked about it.
I remember, when I was little, there was no bread in the house. It happened very often- so what should you do? So I took a little sack and went to the fields (after harvesting) to gather rye, wheat, oats and barley spikelets. I used to put a sack on my neck, walk barefoot on harvested field and look here and there for the remains of the spikelets. The straw was spiky and they would prick my feet, it hurt, my feet bled, but I had to collect spikelets as much as I could. Because my family wanted to eat, my smaller brothers were asking for bread. Before dusk I would have my sack full, then same on the second day and the third. We would dry the spikelets on the stove, beat them to get grains, and to my mother’s great joy would take the grain to the mill. Finally I carried flour home. My mother, my good and dear mother bakes bread. Oh, the smell of fresh bread! How tasty the bread is when there is not enough of it! You take a piece and in a moment it is all gone.
We needed potatoes, but there was no money. What can be done? So, my mother would take our cloth, and she and I would go to the nearest village to exchange cloth for potatoes. You can survive without cloth, you still can use the old one, the ripped one. One day later, after exchanging cloth for potatotes we were going home. Good people gave us a horse and buggy. I was the driver, but when we were passing a corner of one of the houses, the buggy turned to the side of the house, and my mom got caught in between the buggy and the house. There was 1000 pounds of potatoes. Her head was pressed to the house at her temple. How could I, so little, turn the buggy? What should I do? Mama made hard, terrible moans. I was so scared, I screamed suddenly so loud – “mama, dear mama”, with such horror, that the horse got scared and with all her force dragged the buggy in the opposite direction from my mother. I ran to my mom, her tired face was pale blue, there were tears in her eyes. I hugged her very tight, started to kiss her and begged her “mama, dear mama, please live, live”. She looked at me, and probably saw my very scared face washed with my tears, and started to calm me. I still remember this accident, I will probably never forget it.
My dear son, your father had a tough childhood. Very difficult. I am trying to remember all my childhood years and cannot come up with a happy moment. Like a dark night.
Then after the Revolution when the Soviets came, our life changed. I went to school and the sun started to shine for poor people. But I will write about it next time, how I wound up at school and so on. I am sending you my picture.
Study well, my dear and beloved son, listen to adults, do not upset your mother and grandmother. I love you very, very much and kiss you. Kiss your mother for me many times.
Your father, Isaac.
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