“ Human wit or wisdom does not seem to be sufficient enough to be the arbitrator of right or wrong.
The potency of behaviour relies fundamentally upon the capacity of a thought.
There is no way of intelligently substantiating what performance or concept is definitely just or unjust.
Equally, if we assume that a concept or an activity can be determined rationally, it can only be accomplished after the behaviour has already been achieved.
But the contemplation and the operation, by that duration, have already affected the surrounding.
Therefore the human aptitude has its restrictions against the enormous and boundless predominance contrived by a deed or an idea.”
Victor André Georgiou, Christine's and Emile's son, born in Paris, in 1940, at the time when Paris and most of France was under German occupation.
He was forced to stay at home practically all of the first four years of his life, due to the scare of the terror the German military presence had caused.
Christine would spend much of her time with Victor. She had an extensive assortment of children's books, all colourful and full of stories and tales, which a child can
absorb so easily and recall word for word later. The young Victor at the age of four knew how to recite the alphabet, from A to Z, and narrate poems and recount fables, even count numbers one to one hundred.
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When his father, Emile would come home from long absences, he would admire the progress the little fellow had made. And, of course he had to give attention to the kid's unending stories and tales of the events that took place during his days and weeks away from home. A situation that would put Christine in a position to explain to Emile unimportant happenings. For example if a glass had been broken or a bird had come in from the window, and flew around 'till it found itself out again.
But these were the amazing discoveries a young man would find extraordinary to tell his father.
When Victor turned five years old, France was Liberated the same year, and his father returned home from his " missionary " engagements. Life had become safer, and all was back to normal. He was sent to kindergarten not far from where they lived.
He had intense interest towards books. He would pick up any book retire in a corner and emerge himself into reading.
This well praised character of this young man took him to Preliminary school years and beyond.
At the age of fourteen he asked his father if he could have a bicycle. Emile had no hesitation in buying one for his son.
Accompanied with his friends, who were quite many of them, since he was a popular boy, not only with males, but also with females, for his exceptional intelligence and powerful humour, they would ride with their bicycles to Bois de Boulogne and spent a whole day enjoying the park and watch the horse races in the hippodrome.
High school was the field of having more learning courses and more and diverse books to read. His personality was shaping up around a perception that the affection within the heart of the human being should be based on love, respect, compassion, and extending help to the troubled ones, and the oppressed.
Home was the place where these insights have been moulded.
His close companions were the playgrounds, where his beliefs would be executed.
He was well matured for his age.
His father guided him towards a well-rounded education. The environment he was brought up, with the huge selection of books, at the library at home, from the Greek classics to modern literature, history and arts, he was being prepared to succeed his father.
That's why he was elected as editor of his High School quarterly magazine.
In 1958, he graduated from High School with High Distinction, making his parents very proud of him. He was eighteen years of age.
On an autumn day, In October 1958, Emile came home early than usual.
Christine was not home yet, but Victor, having taken a year off after his graduation, to contemplate whether he would continue his education, or join the work force, was home and surprised seeing his father coming home so early. They never expected Emile before eight o'clock in the evening, and that's, if he didn't have any meetings.
" Papa, is something wrong? Asked Victor.
" Maybe it's a cold, son, but I felt light-headed in my office, this the morning, and I thought it will go away, but it continued all day, so I decide to come home and go to bed. When your mom arrives tell her to wake me up, please".
When Christine got home, she instantly wanted to call the family Doctor, because Emile was still complaining about his dizziness, but Emile was against the idea.
She made him a tea and let him sleep for the rest of the night.
In the middle of the night, Emile awoke, breathless and sweating, and called for Christine on his side.
He complained about radiating chest pains, and immense pressure on his chest.
Christine didn't wait for a moment she immediately telephoned the Doctor.
Victor was up and confused. He couldn't find a way to help. His mother was panicky.
Finally the Doctor arrived. After listening to Emile's heartbeat with his stethoscope, he asked him to stay in bed, on his back, with the least of movements, and nodded to Christine to join him outside the room.
" I don't like the rhythm of his heartbeat, and his blood pressure is quite high. I strongly recommend having a heart specialist to examine him today or tomorrow. I will telephone personally Professor Edward Ghalioungi, who is a colleague. Do you agree?"
" Please, Doctor, you have carte blanche, do anything necessary, meanwhile, is there anything I can do?"
" I would avoid any solid food, just small amounts of liquid, and an aspirin every four hours. Let him rest. I will phone you, as soon as I can get hold of the Professor and try to bring him over. He is a very busy cardiologist ".
" Thank you, Doctor, will he be all right?"
" He will be all right ".
The next day, the professor visited Emile and announced that he had a mild Heart Attack, Coronary Thrombosis, that he should lay down on his back for at least a month, and prescribed a blood thinning medication and tablets against fluid retention.
Christine and Victor decided to switch bedrooms. They arranged a comfortable room for Emile, in Victor's room, and mother and son would share the other room.
Victor was devastated. His father was invincible for him. He at once surrendered himself to the custody of books. He had to find out every detail about the heart. How else he could be helping his father.
When the reason of all circumstances becomes known, then everything conceivable becomes known, and nothing continues to be unknown. This was his motto.
He cancelled all his pleasure-based appointments, to spent more time with his father, read the newspapers for him and do errands if he needed.
Christine, meanwhile, turned to faith and belief. She had the conviction that the body is ever changing, but the spirit soul is eternal. She prayed and asked God to give her strength to endure this temptation with patience and tolerance.
Jean, Philip and Victor. Three young students, and very close friends. Three of them representing different perceptions, different sentiments and different qualifications, with relatively light spending power, but wealthy with dreams, good-humoured and an inner educational stringency. Three of them were confronting their first social battle to survive in the tutorial life.
A student, who long for everything, and deprived from all, is a derivative and dissatisfied individual.
These three found each other in High School, and right from the beginning they saw in each other an inevitable hand of destiny, which would ferment their unity.
After graduation the three remained bonded to each other, with a longing to follow each other wherever fate will take them.
Philip had learned that the Soviet Union was extending scholarships to foreign students and that a section of Moscow's major University had established a wing specifically for foreign students. The Education was supposed to be free, as well as a monthly payment of ninety Roubles, for personal expenses.
The news was a life buoy coming to their rescue. University education was costly for them, especially for Victor, who after his father, Emile's illness, he stopped asking for any pocket money from his parents and had a part time job in the library, where Christine worked.
Three of them were thirsty for higher education. Three of them were ready to embrace such benevolence.
Jean and Philip called upon the Soviet Embassy, and made inquiries about the scholarship that was being offered. They learned that the information was accurate and that a scholastic test was necessary, which was due in two weeks, and upon a successful result, they would be accepted. They were given small pamphlets, with all the material in it. Housing, type of classes, a map of Moscow, highlighted with the location of the University of Lomonosov and the branch created for the Foreign Students, under the name of Institute for Foreign Students, the monthly allowance payment of ninety Roubles, etc., etc,.
When they met Victor that evening, and gave him his pamphlet, they had reached the moon.
They were saturated with tremendous joy. They couldn't believe where this opportunity came from and knocked on their door.
Now they had to plan how to approach their parents with the news. They knew they would confront numerous obstacles, purposely conceived by their parents, who wouldn't like to be separated from their children.
They decide to attend the Embassy test, and upon success, then, announce their wish to their parents. And, more important, if any one of them would fail, all three of them would resign from the idea.
The day of the exam, they were astonished to see more than thirty students present.
The test was equivalent to a mild high school certificate quiz. Except that there were a few questions related to the Soviet Union. When was the October Revolution, who was the first Leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Who was the Leader at the present.
Questions that was easy to answer but unanticipated.
For the next few weeks, the three youngsters were driven into unparallel anxiety. They were expecting letters to be sent to them from the Embassy. How could they contrive a story, if their parents would discover the letter? Which unexpectedly happened to two of them.
Jean said to his mother, that he will explain it later, and took the letter to his room.
Philip, pretended as surprised, and as inquisitive as his father, and took the letter to his room.
Victor was the lucky one to reach to the letter, first. He opened it immediately, and from the first few sentences, he new he had succeeded and given the approval to study in Moscow.
How fortunate could they all three of them be? They had all succeeded.
Now, it was time to open up the subject with their parents.
" Son ", started Christine, " I know I cannot changed your mind, and I know that we cannot afford to send you to a University. But let me tell you this much, It has been nine years I haven't heard from Madeleine, you remember her, when you were eight years old, she left for the Soviet Union. From the first year she left, and since then, I only received one letter from her, which was very obviously tempered with, in which she was telling me that they have lost all their belongings, and that she was living in a room which was used for all purposes, her son, Vincent, was growing up to be a komsomol, and that Sergey, her husband was away at a fishing expedition on the Kolima River, near Magadan. Do you know where that is ?, do you know what that means ?. That's in Siberia, and he is in exile. Your father knows this, very well, but for political reasons he is silent… "
" What komsomol means, mom? Asked Victor, oblivious to the other tragic particulars.
" Why don't you ask your father ", answered Christine with an irate manner.
" Mom, if you're opposing this opportunity that I have to obtain a University education, you will be blamed also for Jean and Philip, not being able to go. You see, their parents are not as pro-communist as papa, and they are looking at your reaction, if you will have negative response. What can happen to me, I will be a foreign student, with a French Passport, what possibly can they do to me ?. Apparently there are thousand of other students there, right now, and there were more than forty students that applied from here. I succeeded for the entrance of one of the most well known Universities in the world, why do you want to deny me this chance? I don't understand ".
" I told you, you are so stubborn, I cannot change your mind. So what can I say, if your father agrees, then we will see the conclusion ".
" Thank you, mom, can I tell my friends that it is acceptable by you?"
" No, Victor, not until we have a talk with your father ".
Emile knew for a long time the programme that the Soviets had on inviting foreign students, which was part of a larger foreign policy of flexibility towards Western nations. Cultural exchanges and so on.
Consequently when he was confronted with Victor's success and permission to travel to the U.S.S.R. for his University education, he did not have a strong objection to abstain his blessings.
" I understand why your mother is apprehensive, Victor, what happened to Madeleine, although we don't have the full details, was part of Stalinism. With the present leader Khrushchev, who soon will undertake a visit to the United States, he is modifying some of the dictatorial aspects of the past. Son, all I can say is if you stay a serious student, and do not get involved with dissident elements, you will be well educated and return to become a professional on your own right. What major subjects you intend to follow, son?"
" Humanities, papa, philosophy, literature, history, political science, sociology, subjects that are interested in recording what is of value in different spheres of human life ".
' Oh, my son ", interfered Christine, " I hope you will find these subjects, offered to you by people equally interested perfecting social institutions in that country. I am sorry to say, but Madeleine is in my mind every hour of the day, I don't have her address, but she has mine, why is she so silent? What happened to her? ".
" Christine ", said Emile, " here it is an opportunity for Victor, when he arrives in Moscow to look for Madeleine. Son, you have to visit Madam Findji, before you leave, Papa, if he was still alive, would have been delighted to see you going to Moscow ".
" Can I tell Jean and Philip, that you gave me permission now, please?". Asked Victor.
Philip was the oldest of the three. At twenty, he was like an older brother to Victor and Jean. Lean, pale and fair complexion with thin lips, blue eyed, wide forefront, always with a solemn look, who had a tender and noble heart.
Jean was talkative like a cricket, a singer like a bird, delicate like a girl, and smart like the devil. In school, all his classmates loved him, for his capable and helping nature. He was the indivisible part of Victor and Philip.
Victor, pure, contented, frank and daring, and likewise a bon vivant, and humorous fellow, always-giving importance to friendship.
Preparations were under way for their once in a life time opportune voyage to Moscow, to study. Philip in medicine. Jean in civil engineering, and Victor in humanities.
The parents were in a different kind of preparation. They have read the booklet and found out that Moscow is almost sub-zero temperature, from October until March. So, warm clothing was an essential component of their wardrobe. Lined galoshes, to protect the feet. Woollen socks, long johns, jumpers, shirts, pants to protect the body. The fur hats, which the Russian are famous for, will be bought when they arrive. Plus all the sanitary necessities. And more.
A mother will never like to feel guilty, by forgetting or overlooking a need for their offspring.
The classes will begin in September.
His mother asked Victor, to spend more time at home, for her to have the pleasure of his presence.
And Christine would bring up her favourite subject. Madeleine Findji Alexandrov.
" As soon as you settle down dear, I want you to find a way of finding her. The only letter that I received from her, the address was erased on the back of the envelope. Papa and Maman Findji never heard from her. In fact, Papa dyed from a broken heart. I will bring out some of the photos that I have of her, you can take one with you. Visit the Moscow Conservatory and ask about her, she was promised to have a job there. Become friendly with her son, she was four months pregnant when she left, his name is Vincent, he must be about nine years old by now. The way you love Jean and Philip, I loved her she was my best friend. It is very important for me to find out what happened to her. Do you understand, son?"
" Yes mom, I promise, I will find her ".
" Tomorrow, go and visit Maman Findji, she will be very happy to see you, and maybe she will give a small package for you to take to Madeleine, I will give one too, all right?"
" Mom, can I go out to see Philip? We want to go out tonight, with some of the girls from school, before we leave. It is a bon voyage party, can I?"
" Of course you can, how is Marise, anyway, she hasn't visited us for a while ".
" She is unhappy that I am leaving. I never promised her anything. She will understand later, I guess. She herself is leaving for Algiers soon. I told her I would correspond with her ".
They had a discussion on the travel plans. Victor wanted to take the train. Jean and Philip wanted to fly.
" Imagine that you will see the rest of Europe, something you have never done. We will be spending time together, plus we'll see many countries. Too much of technology and not enough of sociology, guys. I always see this in you both. Why don't we learn about the world more, than about a machine. Flying in an air plane is so fast, that there is no time to acquaint yourself with your surroundings ".
" All right, we give in ", said Jean, " will take the rails and listen to the wheels scratching and you talking, Victor, you won ".
Another tearful separation for Christine and Emile. This time for their son. The only consolation they had, this time, was that Victor would be back for sure in four or five years term of schooling.
There were not many tears in Victor's eyes; he had a jubilant glance on his face. After all he was successfully selected for this scholarship, and he looked forward to it, with assured confidence.
" Pap, mum, please don't look so despaired, I am going to be all right, I will search for Madeleine, mum, and write you letters, at least once a month".
" Yes son, we are sad only because we are going to miss you, we have only you, and for nineteen years, we raised you and cared about you ". Said Emile.
" I promise, papa, you will be proud of me ".
The train was ready. Likewise the three young men. Three of them were at the carriage window waving to their parents' goodbye.
They were in a second-class compartment, with three berths. They had their privacy. The train had a restaurant carriage attached to it, which was convenient, but they wondered out at stops in Berlin and another one in Warsaw. At the Polish and U.S.S.R. frontier, their passports were checked. They had special students visas stamped, so their passage was unquestioned. The train went through Minsk, and Smolensk, and numerous small towns, which looked gloomy, with uninterrupted lines of small huts, mostly with muddy roads. It gave the first impression on them as poverty being the general outlook. Followed by acres and acres of bare land. Finally the train arrived on July Twenty Second at 3:00 PM in Moscow's Byelorussky Station.
While they were wandering what will happen next, two men speaking French, introducing themselves as officials from the Cultural Affairs Department, greeted them.
" Welcome to Moscow, said one of them, you arrived just the opposite side of the University, we will drive you cutting the city, so you will be fortunate to see Moscow on your way. According to your selected field of study, you will be placed in different dormitories. They are close to each other, but each faculty has its own dormitory.
The inseparable three, looked at each other for a moment. Well, they lived apart at home too, and that didn't isolate them. So they will find each other's location very quickly.
On the way to the University grounds, they were guided and given the names of the fascinating places they past through.
The Moscow Planetarium, the Lenin Library, The Pushkin Museum, the Tolstoy Museum, and through Komsomolsky Prospect, crossing the Moskva River into the University grounds.
Philip and his luggages were left at this dormitory. Jean and his luggages were left at the dormitory on Prospect Universitat. Both were met by their faculty leaders, and have been allocated rooms, in their separate dormitories.
And they took Victor on Kosygina Ulitsa, where the Philological Institute's dormitory was located.
Victor stood for a moment in front of the building and admired the architectural structure of this five-story facility.
The official helped him carry his luggage's inside. They climbed a dozen marbled steps and entered an office, which was occupied by the Super-intendant of the entire dormitory.
After officially being introduced, the super-intendant spoke.
" Glad to meet you, Victor, since there are not many foreign students in Philology, this building is mixed with country, local and foreign students. We are a big happy family here.
Would you like to share your room with other foreign students, or with local students, who very seldom speak any foreign language?"
Victor, had to learn the Russian language, he knew that. A Russian roommate would be his best choice.
" I would like to share the room with a Russian speaking student, please ". He answered.
" My name is Grigori Butvinov, Victor, you can call me Grigori ", said the Super-intendant.
" I am in my office from seven in the morning until Five O'clock in the evening, any help you need about anything, do not hesitate to ask. I will let you share a room with a Russian student, who is in his second year in Philology and is one of the most respected and helpful young men in our building. His name is Vladimir Sergeyvitch Tamarov. I think he is good in foreign languages too. He doesn't stay much in his room, because he likes to study in the Library. Let me find the key for your room. There are three beds in your room, the third one is not occupied yet, I will let it go that way until I have to give it to a student from the country or another foreign student. Here it is, please do not loose it. I'll take you now to your room. It is room number 3a, the third room on your left, when you come up the stairs, passing my office. Let's go ".
Grigori was a balding, short chubby man, in his late fifties, with wide brimmed sunglasses resting on his nose. He looked somewhat proud of having foreign students in his building. He opened the door, unexpectedly with a key; he had with a huge ring of at least another couple dozen keys. Victor became aware of this at once, and didn't like it. Victor had three huge suitcases. They stepped into the room. Three beds, in three corners. One of the beds had been in use. A square table, in the middle of the room, with a single element hot plate on top, getting its electrical power from a hanging light bulb through the ceiling. There were a few volumes of books left on the table. Three chairs around the table. Across, a wide window, overlooking Kosygina Ulitsa. Under the window a long radiator, taking the width of the window. No wardrobe and no bookshelf.
Grigori noticed Victor's discontented expression.
" You settle in, and visit me later and tell me what you will need ".
" Can you please show me where the showers are? I need to have a shower ".
" There are no showers in this building, but in the corner of this street, on the right hand side there is a public bath, it is one of the best in Moscow. The toilets and wash basins are at the end of this corridor ". And he stepped out, avoiding more questions.
Victor while closing the door noticed that there was a security knob behind the door. He felt better. He set on one of the chairs and began to contemplate.
" No showers on the premises, that's all right, he will visit the bathhouse every other day. No wardrobe, that's all right, he can live through his suitcases by putting them under his bed and pulling them out when needed. No bookshelf, that's all right, he can get some bricks and some boards and have shelves made. Which bed will be his of the remaining two beds? Yes, the one near the window ". He was organising his room.
" I wonder, when my room mate will be here? ", he asked himself, " What was his name? Vladimir, yes, I can't remember the rest, I'll ask him when he arrives ".
He was tired. Without touching his suitcases, he lay down on his bed, and fell asleep.
A gentle knock on the door woke him up. To his surprise Philip and Jean were at the door.
" We finally found you, you rascal ", said Philip, " We asked everywhere for you, it is a nice old building, you only have three beds, mine has four beds and they are all occupied by foreign students, one is from Egypt, and the other two are from Lebanon, but its a huge room. There are showers in my building, but not on my floor. It looks like mine is newer dormitory, just for foreign student who will study medicine ".
" You have to come and visit mine, Victor ", said Jean, " mine is an old building too, there is only two beds in mine and its a much smaller than this one. I don't think there is anybody else yet, but it's for foreign students only, so I don't know from where the other one will come. Let's go and find something to eat, I am really hungry. I think there is a cafeteria on the basement of our faculty ".
" Let's go out ", said Victor, " do you see this speaker on the top corner of the wall, that's suppose to be a radio. There is only one station. You can put the volume up or down. Maybe they are listening our conversation ", he joked.
They were three young individuals, who were captivated and charmed by their surroundings. Everything they encountered was new for them. And all new discoveries were an arousal of curiosity. According to the maps they had, their location was not even one tenth of the entire city of Moscow, which was massive. The University of Lomonosov, which they were part of, was on top of a hill, towering over the city and it had a monumental structure. It had around twenty-five faculties. It was the hub of education.
The cafeteria of the Engineering faculty was closed. It would reopen when the classes would start. They walked along Komsomolsky Prospect, and found a restaurant.
A very simple interior, with a very simple menu. The choices were, a soup called borsch, a pastry called pirozhki, and a dish called beef Stroganoff.
They were so hungry; they all ordered one of each of the menu. With bottles of lemonade for drinks.
The first evening in Moscow was excellent. They couldn't stretch their curiosity more than that. They decided to retire for the night, to rest for next day's exploration to the center of the city. They had three more days to start orientation classes.
When Victor reached in front of his room, the door was open. For a moment is heart started pounding. He had all his belongings inside, he didn't know what would he face once he got in.
He looked in, everything was in its place. He stepped in. Just at that moment a tall man in his middle twenties, blonde and blue eyes, wearing only black shorts, big arms, wide bare chests, with a smile on his face made an entrance to the room.
" You, Victor ", he said missing the verb.
" Yes, I am Victor, are you Vladimir?" asked Victor.
" Da, da, Yes, yes ", repeated himself Vladimir, " I speak very little French ".
They shook each other's hand.
" You teach me French, and I teach you Russian ", continued Vladimir.
They smiled. Vladimir appeared quite comfortable with his shorts on. His pants and his shirt were on his bed. He took a book from the table, sat on his bed and made a sign with his hand, meaning go ahead and do what you like, I am going to read this book.
Victor started opening his suitcases one by one, to remember which one has what. He needed his pyjamas and his tooth brush and tooth paste. He found them. He rearranged some of the clothes, to keep the winter ones out of the way. He remarked Vladimir looking at him from the corner of his book. When he put on his pyjamas and was heading to the door to go to the lavatory, Vladimir got up and asked.
" Are you going out, to night? You have suit on ".
Victor first didn't know what he meant, but when Vladimir was showing him his pyjamas, he caught on to the idea and started laughing out of his head, while Vladimir was looking at him with astonishment. This was his first encounter with culture clash. The black shorts had multiple usages for Vladimir; they were his underwear and his shorts and his pyjamas. Under Victor pyjamas, was his white underwear.
Somehow Vladimir understood his oversight. And someway Victor didn't put any significance.
When he entered the lavatory though, another culture shock confronted him.
The toilets didn't have any seats. There were just foot size platforms, with a hole in the middle. No toilet papers. Newspapers cut into small squares and fitted on to a hook.
His humbleness motivated him to ignore the cause of arrears of a nation, which had invited him to receive an education.
He followed the habits of the locals. Then he brushed his teeth, and returned to his room.
His first night, in his sleep, his mother and father were constantly coming into vision.
On his first day in Moscow, Victor was awake by six o'clock in the morning. His interests were multiple. What happens around him, in his room, in the dormitory, in the streets, he wanted to witness the activities that took place in a new environment.
Vladimir was lazily spread on his bed, yawning once in a while.
" Good morning ", said Victor, " What do you do before the classes will start ", he continued with a slow pace, to make his words distinct to Vladimir.
" I go gymnasium, I go library, I see girlfriend and friends, I play chess, many things ". Answered Vladimir.
" Today, I want to go to center of Moscow, with my friends, can you tell me where to go and how, I have a map, can you show me, please ".
They both got out of bed and sat around the table. Vladimir looked at the map and he pointed to Victor where to get the Metro and where to get off, to be able to walk towards Krasnaya Ploshchad, The Red Square.
Most of the conversation is done by hand gestures and words put together, understandable by both.
" When you come to Red Square, there is Kremlin, and opposite Kremlin, there is GUM.
" What is GUM "? Asked Victor.
" Gosudarsveny Universalny Magazine, big shop, with everything ". Answered Vladimir.
" Thank you, Vladimir, no restaurant in this dormitory? Where do you have breakfast?
Vladimir approached the window, and signalled Victor to come close to him next to the window, and pointed across the street to a café.
" Chai, tea, kófe, kakao, moloko, milk, peerozhnai, cake, and kasha, porridge and banana ".
" Thank you, I will get dressed and wait for my friends to come and we'll have breakfast, across the street, you want to come with us ". Indicated, Victor.
" No, thank you ", said Vladimir, and showed a white paper bag. Then he turned on the hot plate and went out with a small pot, to fill it with water. When he came back, Victor went out to the lavatory. On his return, Vladimir had a tall glass of tea and a piece of cake out of the paper bag. He put a piece of sugar cube in his mouth and kept sipping the tea.
" Today, I will buy a tall glass like yours and tea and coffee, so that in the morning we'll have breakfast together ".
" In GUM, many glasses ", said Vladimir.
Victor had to pull out one of his suitcases to take out some clothes to wear for the day.
" Many, many clothes, you rich ", said Vladimir, " I only this ", he said showing his only pants and shirt. And he looked at Victor's shoes and had an admiring expression on his face.
Victor felt embarrassed and self-conscious. He thought for a moment, not to change his clothes in front of Vladimir. He wanted to avoid any enviable feeling from him.
" What are you majoring in? ", asked Victor, to change the subject.
" I want to be teacher, or maybe professor ", said Vladimir laughing.
He was ready to leave, when Victor remembered that he had left the door open the previous day.
" Vladimir, please do not leave the door open, always close the door with your key, all right?
Before getting into the Metro escalator, at Universitet Linya station, the three French students, who were familiar to subways, each took pocket maps of Metro, for future use.
The striking features of the underground were its impeccable cleanness and exquisite decor of marble, which they couldn't help themselves to admire. Between their Moscow street map and the Metro map they figured our that if they get off at Prospect Marksa station, they didn't have to interchange stations, and they could walk to Red Square.
They noticed huge propaganda posters everywhere, what it appeared to be slogans, in Russian, about the achievements of the Communist reign.
Walking down from the corner of a side street, where they saw the entrance of a tall Hotel building, the space that opened up in front of them facing the Lenin Mausoleum and on its left the towering Cathedral was like an unbelievable fantasy. They stood there for a while to absorb the immensity of the place.
" You know guys ", said Philip, " Lenin's body is perfectly intact, and they embalmed it after his death, just like the Egyptian mummies ".
" I don't think so, Philip ", said Jean, " I heard that the face is all right, but the body is deteriorated ".
" Shall we go inside?" asked Victor.
" Its almost impossible, Victor, look at the line, it will take more than an hour waiting ".
Victor noticed dozens of soldiers with military uniforms everywhere. They were more noticeable than the crowd walking around the square or the line formed to get into the Mausoleum.
" Why is there so many soldiers? He asked, " and they are all so young ".
" Because in the Soviet Union, Victor ", said Philip, " after high school, you go straight into military service for three or four years ".
" I will ask my room mate, Vladimir, if he had his military service. I would think he had, because, he looks around twenty-five years old, and this is his second year in University.
Shall we go and look around in the GUM, guys, it is a department store, I want to buy a tall glass for tea, my roommate had tea this morning, in a glass, and it was unusual. I'll look for tea and sugar and a little bit of food stuff, to keep it in the room ".
They all agreed.
It was another colossal building, with skyways bridging from one to the other side of the departments. The only unexpected element was that most of the department's shelves were empty. They found tall glasses, spoons, tea and brown sugar cubes, but a very meagre selection of food, while they noticed a huge selection of classical records. The barren shelves all over the compound were truly disappointing.
They strolled around the vicinity of the Kremlin for a few hours, until they were hungry. They came across the same Hotel again, Hotel Moskva. The concierge, who asked for their passports, stopped them at the door. And then smilingly let them in.
" I can tell from your shoes ", he said sardonically.
The restaurant was much stylish and fancier than the one they went the day before. The choice was much wider also. They had dishes from the different cultures in the Soviet Union.
They also ordered a bottle of wine, and had the best feast since their arrival and they cheered for their new life.
Late in the evening when Victor returned to his room, Vladimir was asleep. He sat quietly on the table, to write a letter to his parents. At that moment he remembered his promise to his mother, to search for Madeleine.
" I'll ask Vladimir ", he said to himself, how can I find her in this big city ".
When he awoke the next morning, Vladimir was already gone. He noticed a piece of paper on the table. It read.
" Notice to all First Year Philology students: Orientation meeting, to day, 28th of August, at 11AM, in the hall of the Foreign Language Philology Faculty."
He had couple hours to finish his letter that he started the previous night, to his parents.
He heard the door knocking. It was not locked again. He opened it.
Grigori was at the door.
" Please, come in ", he said.
" Victor, this is your identification card, as Foreign Student, if you loose it, come to me I give you another one. Wherever you go, to the Stadium, to the Kino, cinema, to the Opera, to the Philharmonia, museums, any public place when they ask you for your ID, you should show this card. You understand?"
" And this envelope is your monthly allowance, I give you the first one, but at the end of each month, or the beginning of each month, you go to the cashier of your Faculty and you ask for your pay and you sign for it. Now, please sign here for your first pay. Don't forget your meeting today at 11AM ".
" Grigori, where can I buy stamps for a letter to my parents, and thank you for my pay?"
" The Main Post Office is on Gorky Ulitsa, when you go to buy, get enough for your needs, I can give you now two 50 Kopeks stamps, one is enough for France. Come with me ".
At the Faculty hall, there were exactly sixty-eight students; they were divided into groups of seventeen.
The Head of the Faculty introduced himself as Mikhail Kulikin.
He distributed the itinerary of the classes for the first semester. Monday through Friday.
Fifteen hours of Russian language, ninety minutes each morning and afternoon.
Five hours of History of the Soviet Union, an hour everyday.
Five hours of Marxism-Leninism, an hour every day.
Five hours of Russian Literature, an hour each day.
Five hours of Philology, an hour each day.
Three hours of Psychology, an hour, three times a week, evening class.
Two hours of Sociology, an hour, twice a week, evening class.
Victor calculated that he would be in classes eight hours a day.
For one year, beside the Russian Language classes, the other subjects will be basically in French with strong Russian translation.
After the First Year, if the student can pass his exams in Russian, he will continue for his Second Year. If he will be unable to pass, he will be understudying the First Year of Russian Language.
The Russian Language classes would start the next day. A day of introduction.
Every other class will start on the First of September 1959.
There were booklets available, on orientation of the total University activities, In Russian, English, French and German. Maps of location of gymnasiums, sports fields, cafeterias, recreational halls, language pronunciation rooms, with head phones, and offices of information and advisory committees, etc. etc.
In the afternoon, Victor gave a visit to Philip. Jean also arrived soon after. They compared notes. Victor's itinerary was less than half of what Jean and Philip would follow. They joked on how easy Victor's classes were. Later they went to dine together. They decide to meet each other, if possible, after classes and on weekends, at Jean's room, since there was no other student sharing his room, as yet.
When Victor went back to his room, Vladimir was on his bed, stretched and reading. He showed him all his papers and the booklets.
" I will speak only Russian with you ", said Vladimir, try to repeat what I say, Panimayou ? You understand? ".
Miss Ludmilla Petrovna was Victor's Russian Language teacher.
The very first day, on the first session, Miss Petrovna, welcomed the group of seventeen foreign students, in Russian, English, French and German.
Then she asked from each of the students to get up and give their name and the country they came from. Victor was the only student from France. The other sixteen were from Congo, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt and Libya. Some spoke French, some English and the others only their own language. It was Babylon reincarnated.
Her opening speech was very nationalistic, according to Victor. She explained the beauty of the Russian language this way.
" When you compare the Russian language, to other languages, or at least to the ones that I know ", she added, " English is the language of diplomacy, it has words and proses that accurately expresses specific affirmations. The French Language is the language of love; it has an abundance of poetic words, which expresses the emotions of the heart. In Italian, you can sing, because the vocal sound of its vowels is like musical tones, which are produced with the least of effort. And German is characterised by its short and abrasive connotations, which are expressed by force and combat form, with a significance of war. After listening to the Russian language for a period of time, you will realise that it has all the particularities of the other languages. You can sing, make love, diplomacy and war all at the same time with the Russian language ".
" The first session of the first language class was a statement of presumptions ", thought Victor. Nevertheless he was ready to study this multifaceted language. Without the language, the wealth of knowledge will not be accessible.
After learning the alphabet in two classes, he was on his way to master Russian words.
He desperately needed a French-Russian and Russian-French dictionary. Miss Petrovna told him where to find one, if he wanted to buy one for personal use, if not the library could provide one.
He borrowed a few children's books from the library and took them to his room, to read.
He had not familiarised himself with the dormitory as yet. When he arrived, Vladimir was ready to go out.
"Where are you going, Vladimir ", he asked.
" On the fourth floor to visit my friends, dzievoushka, girls, you want to come with me?"
" Yes ", he said, " I'll come with you ". And up they went. On the way to the fourth floor Vladimir explained to Victor, that there were hundred and fifty rooms in the dormitory. The first three floors were for the male students, and the last two floors were for the female students. Each floor had thirty rooms, and a lavatory on each side.
There was loud western music coming out from one of the rooms, on the way up.
" You like American music, Victor ", asked Vladimir.
" Yes, some ".
" The girls love to dance, Victor, they will like you, they like all foreigners, specially the black students from Africa. Russian students don't like to see Russian girls with black students".
They were at the door of Vladimir's friends. The door opened and a blonde, tall girl, with a smile opened the door.
" Come in, come in, my name is Anna ", she said, " you are Victor, how do you do, you like Moskva, you like Vladimir? ", and she laughed loudly.
Victor was smiling and looking around the room, full of pictures on the walls.
The education was not entirely bound by the University classes. The every day life was an immense school to learn. Victor was witnessing all around him, through conversations, and his own observations that there were changes, modifications and even transformations in the social, economical and political life of the citizens of the Soviet Union.
The scenes of the long queues everywhere for basic food, like bread and milk were continuing, but the presences of new supplies were the motives of new lines being formed quickly.
During talks with local students, Victor had perceived their psychological impetus to be based on the assumption that Stalinism defeated Leninism, and if Lenin could have lived longer, Stalinism might have never developed. Stalinism took freedom and democracy away from their life and substituted it with despotism, which created fear and death. Stalin's transgressions will never be forgotten.
Their new leader, Khrushchov, had created a policy of " Peaceful coexistence " with the "peoples " of the world.
Victor could not grasp the expression of " peoples ", when in reality, it was one man who indisputably, leader of the state and the party, could decide the fate of the country.
He burst one day saying.
" Why do you always say the " Peoples ", of Russia have an everlasting friendship with the "peoples " of France, when that one man, in the past, like Stalin, can stop that friendship with one stroke. The " peoples " of France elect the government of France. The government of France represents the " peoples " of France. Is your government represented by the " Peoples of Russia?" ".
The outburst was characteristic to a Frenchman's passion for freedom.
Vladimir gave the perfect explanation of a citizen's psychological behaviour in Russia.
" Never be too inquisitive about your leader, or have too much information on the way your government operates. Interest and observation in those sectors can demonstrate that there is a possibility that the citizen becomes a suspect as a foreign agent and an enemy of the people. This is the fear that people had lived with. Do you understand?"
And in their private confinement, Vladimir seemed to speak freely with Victor. A trust had been originated between the two. He would help Victor with his home works and at leisure time they would have a game of chess. Vladimir invariably would win, something that would frustrate Victor for a while, until the next game. They were friends now.
Among the courses that Victor was taking. The History of the Soviet Union was attractive only in its chronological way. It was dull, when ideological theories were continuously being repeated. Marxism was interesting with its philosophical hypothesis, especially where there were discussions on political economy. The most stimulating subject was Russian Literature.
During the first semester he was given a programme to read Alexandre Pushkin. For Victor the most amazing part of Pushkin's life, was his death following a duel with a Frenchman who was allegedly accused having an affair with his wife. He had read " Eugene Onegin " when he was in High School. He found a translation of " Boris Godunov ", in the library. And he read the short story " The queen of Spades " in Russian, by going back and forth to the dictionary.
The next author in his programme was Turgenev. He too had a French connection. He was passionately in love with a French singer Pauline Viardot. One reason he remained outside Russia, where his philosophical and social rebellious works were criticised. Victor read his masterpiece " Fathers and
Sons ", with Vladimir's help.
His studies had kept him away from Philip and Jean. During the first three months they had met only twice. During both times, there was a general discontentment on the weight of their education and also the lack of finding nutritional food. However, they were pleased to be together and share their experiences.
Telephone did not exist, and mail delivery seemed an impossible task. But on the third month Grigori shoved a letter from home under his door, probably.
He was thrilled. He immediately opened it and tears gathered in his eyes. His mother was reminding him to find Madeleine, when he had free time.
Vladimir witnessed the joy and tears and the emotional expression Victor showed.
" Are you all right? ", he asked, " do you want me to leave, maybe when you're alone, you'll feel better, unless you want to talk ".
Victor gathered himself for a moment, and looked at Vladimir.
" Where are your parents Vladimir? You have never said anything about them, do you have a mother and a father? Where do they live? ".
" My mother lives in the Caucasus, and my father left home when I was born, Victor, maybe one day, when you return, you will look for my father. When I was in High School I realised more and more that my father's absence had created a battle in my mind. When I came to Moscow, at the beginning, day after day, I visited No. 24 Kuznetzky Bridge, where they keep information on Prisoner's of War. I just wanted to know if he was still alive. They told me they will investigate, and I should go back to find out. I waited for an answer for very long time. I went for military service and when I returned, I asked for him again. I still waited, until I thought that he must have died, but when, where and how? ".
" I am sorry, Vladimir, I shouldn't have asked a personal question of that nature. I tell you another story, and maybe you can help me, since you said, you were looking for your father, in a place where they will inform, peoples where about. My mother had a childhood friend, who migrated to the Soviet Union, in 1948. After they moved, she only wrote one letter without any address, now that I am here; she wants me to find her. Her name is Madeleine Findji. How can I find her? She was a pianist, and she had a position in the Moscow Conservatory, shall I go there, to ask about her?"
" You can start from there, Victor, it is very difficult to look for people in Moscow. I heard that if the person was exiled, there was twenty percent chance that, that person will still be alive. But in the Interior Ministry, there is a section, which popularly is called " The Address House". You can give the name of the person, they look in their books, and if they find it, they give it to you, because during the War, many people lost their relatives ".
Victor had a look at the window. It was snowing outside, like a white veil spreading on the city.
They both approached the window. Being on the first floor, they could see the street covered with the white substance. It was magic. They saw students from the dormitory outside pelting each other with snowballs. They went out. They couldn't miss such fun.
For an hour or so they enjoyed the fall of the flakes and the mini warfare between the girls and the boys.
That night, Victor head papers to prepare for a test on Philology, and it snowed all night, without any interruption. The snow had reached the edge of their window.
The next morning, he reached his " winter ' suitcase, to pull out his galoshes, his woollen socks, long johns and jumpers. The time has come, to use them.
Grigori knocked the door; at the time he was leaving and told Vladimir that there were parcels waiting for him at the Kiev rail station.
" I am so glad, thank you Grigori, I'll go this afternoon ". And he turned to Victor.
" My winter food and clothing arrived, your leaving? I'll see you to night ".
Walking towards the University grounds and his faculty building was almost impossible, his feet would emerge up to his knees in the snow, and everybody around him had the same problem, it was almost hilarious to watch each other struggle in the snow. He was amazed though, to see how quick the roads where being cleared, with snowplowers. The temperatures dropped below zero and the freezing wind was merciless.
" The Russian winter ", thought Victor, " even Napoleon couldn't resist this cold. Now I know why he retreated. I'll stay 'till I conquer ", a smile emanated on his face.
Vladimir Sergeyvitch Tamarov was born in 1936, in Gislavotzk, a town in the Caucasus within the borders of the Soviet Socialist Republic.
He was a thin, tall, melancholic young man. A very attractive face with an " older than his age " look. By now he was twenty-three years old.
He seemed always lost in thoughts, serious in his approach to things, and very quiet.
From a first observation you would suspect that he was in a deep hurt, suffering from a past unfair treatment. He had a secret, and he had it hidden deep in inside his heart. Although sometimes, he would change to a happy, talkative, energetic and bright individual with a childish charm.
Before the age of eight, his playmates would call him affectionately, Vlado. But their neighbours and the elderly people would call him Alexandrov's son.
The day he was enrolled in school, when his turn came, the Principle asked for his name.
" Vladimir ", he answered.
" Your mother's name ", asked the Principle.
" Svetlana Tamarova ", was his answer.
" You are Vladimir Tamarov, then ", concluded the Principle.
During school attendance, Vladimir, had found out that neither of his class mates had their fathers at home.
One day, he asked his mother about the where about of his father.
His mother's answer was that his father had gone to war, the year he was born and had never returned. She didn't know whether he was alive or dead.
" What is my father's name, mother ", he asked her.
" Why do you need your father's name for, son ", she answered, avoiding the question.
The incident was forgotten in a child's fantasy.
Books had given him the perfect escape rout to an illusory world, where he would wander for hours. His imagination had taken him the boarders of grand ideas to be accomplished as soon as he could live home.
Having a miserable childhood, he was being able to comprehend more and more the tragic circumstances in which he was brought up. He knew he was born in very difficult times and the present reality was changing his attitude towards his surrounding.
As a teenager, he was in the process of self-realisation, and the past pictures seemed painted in very dark colouring.
He appreciated the love of his mother. He knew that her devotion towards him would never diminish. But he knew also that there was something missing in his life. He has been denied what he deserved.
School was his second escapade after his books. He was the admiration of his teachers. Beside scholastic perfection, sports were a medium for relaxation and fun with a few friends, with whom he could share his energy.
After High School Graduation, at eighteen, he was indicted in the military.
The day before he left home, he asked for his father's name, once again from his mother.
" Son, you will promise me that if I give you your father's name, you will never bring it up with the authorities. When the Principle gave you, my maiden name, I didn't object, to save you any harassment in your future. Keep it that way for your own sake. You will find out one day, what I mean. Your father's name is Sergey Ivanovitch Alexandrov. Keep it to yourself. You will do your military service for four years. When you're done, stay in Moscow and try to get into the University, like your father and study. I will help you financially, as much as I can, and you will be paid, as a country student. Try to avoid from coming back for a while. After the war, your father didn't come back, and they must be looking for him. Son, do you understand. I will pray for you, day and night. Always write to me and give me of your news. God bless you ".
" I love you mom, and I thank you for all the information you gave me. I feel much better now. But can I use my father's name as my middle name, to keep his memory alive. From now on I will call myself Vladimir Sergeyvitch Tamarov ".
It is a dreadful position for a student, when he has to study and at the same time struggle against poverty. The most valuable times that should be applied to the study of his chosen specialty is tied down for the hunt of a few kopeks, to avoid hunger.
Victor couldn't help witnessing this situation with Vladimir.
But, when he returned from the Kiev Rail Station later that evening, he had with him two big sacks and a huge package. He opened them up and he said.
" These are my winter food supplies, I have my bag of potatoes, my bag of onions, pickled cabbage in a jar, dried and smoked fish, new galoshes and a jumper that my mother knitted for me, oh, I shouldn't forget the salt and pepper, wrapped up in those newspapers. I can have my attention on my studies
A puzzling existence. For a decent meal, Philip, Jean and Victor had to go one of the international hotels, where even there they would only find the soup Borshch, the chicken Kiev, the beef Stroganov and the shashlik. Vegetable and fruits were worst than finding medication.
Victor was very interested as to how Vladimir would turn his potatoes and onions to a proper feed. Soon he witnessed. The same evening, Vladimir turned on the single electrical plate, had the pot full of water, meanwhile he opened both sacks, and took out four pieces of potatoes, each the size of a ping-pong ball, and four pieces of onions, like marble balls, and threw them in the boiling water. He went back to his books. After about fifteen minutes, he turned off the plate, opened the small packages of salt and pepper, wrapped in newspaper, and took a potato dipped it in the salt and pepper and took a bite. This went on until he had eaten the eight pieces. Then turned to Victor and said.
" I'll go across the street and buy a bottle of yogurt, I am still a bit hungry ".
The scene was unforgettable for Victor. He was anxiously waiting for Jean and Philip to come over, for them to go to dinner to one of the hotels, which by now had become a habit. And also to tell them about what he had just witnessed. Survival had different meaning for different people. The three had realised that the ninety Roubles per month was hardly adequate to survive, while the local students were only getting seventy Roubles.
To add a little more income, Victor had agreed to write in the University weekly, about his experiences, which were all translated, not only language wise, but composed with prudent perspective, friendly, respectful and positive approach. They were mostly about the places, like the Kremlin with all its Cathedrals, the Bell of Ivan the Great, Lenin's Mausoleum, about the Lomonosov University on the Lenin Hills, the magnificent Metro and the Museums, and the events that the student organisation would plan for them, like going to the theatre to see Chekov's " Uncle Vania ", Sergey Bondarchuck's " War and Peace " movie, the Bolshoi Ballet performing Tchaikovsky's " Swan Lake ".
These really were memorable occurrence. The students would be invited to the " House of Friendship ", called " Dom Drouzhba ", on Kalinin Prospect, where they would personally meet the living writers, musicians, performers, who showed "loyalty" to the party and contributed to the future of their "beloved" country.
The events that Victor would write in his own diary, but never publish them, were the episodes, which Vladimir would take Victor, in a mysterious time and place, to listen to Yuli Klim, singer, Pavel Litvinov, activist, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, poet, Dmitri Yurasov, historian, and many others, who were accused of being dissidents. Victor would admire the power of free spirit that these individuals would expose, while they were being persecuted for telling the truth about their country.
He hadn't forgotten his father's advice to keep away from dissident elements, but he could see and experience their plight for justice. He considered it part of his education, and he was thankful to Vladimir, that he had introduced him to the true content of Russian essence.
" Samizdat ", was the unofficial newsletters and manuscripts, reflecting the dissident opinion.
Victor was collecting the publications, which he secretly cherished, and had planned to carry them out with him on his return.
Victor was getting to be known around the University. The former bashful, pensive, disheartened and head-down boy, in time had become cordial, proud and cheerful young man. The withdrawn and recluse manners had changed to an approachable and somehow assertive character.
His medium, gallant height, with dark, chestnuty hair, his handsome face and attractive eyes were gradually recognised by the young women on the campus.
In his mother's first letter, he had received the news that Marise had been engaged to a wealthy man. It was a terrible and shuddering blow for Victor. He had been loyal to his feelings towards her, and expected her to be honest to disclose him such news. He never complained and never expressed his grief to anyone. The feeling of dignity, which was so brave in his entity, saved him from a breakdown. And he wiped out the love for her from his heart. He buried the memory of his first love very deeply in his heart and he gained strength against following fatal commitments.
Nobody dominated him with love thereafter. Instead he fervently, vigorously and fiercely rushed into small affairs. He had loved and he was deceived. Now it was his turn to betray. There was no comparison or difference in woman for him from then on.
There was plenty of choice of females in the university compound. Some young and some old. Some attractive and some displeasing. One could be vindicated with the vengeance of the other.
Vladimir was continuously flirting with Anna. But they couldn't engage her room all the time, since she shared her room with three other girls. So an agreement was made between Victor and Vladimir, with two secret indicators. If a red cloth were hanging at the window, the person left outside, would come and knock the door three times. The person inside had half an hour to vacate the room. The door was secure, since it had a lock from inside. This pact worked very smooth. Both were respecting each other's time and territory.
At the present, Victor had met a girl, whose parents were migrants to the Soviet Union, from France, with Armenian nationality. The father was a lecturer of French Language, Literature and History at the University.
Her name was Anaïs Kalfayan . She too was in her first year in the University. Her Russian was so fluent, it was difficult to distinguish her from other Russian speaking girls.
From their first conversation, Victor had found her erudite, highly penetrating and sensible temperament. She was gradually gaining Victor's sympathy and she was having a redeeming influence on him.
Soon he was invited to the Kalfayan's home. Some days for dinner, some days, just to be together and have warm and serious and learned discussions.
The loving hearts are always ready for self-devotion. And Anaïs' noble nature was demonstrated in her intimacy. A reciprocal respect and compassion was blooming between the two.
Victor and Anaïs were in love. For Victor this love was not to be compared to the transitory and swindling conveyance of the past, which came like a wind and vanished. This was a deep, sacred and spiritual union.
On one dinner occasion, professor Kalfayan, sitting at the head of the table, wanted to know more about the young man that had taken the heart of his little daughter.
" Tell me, Victor ", he began, " You already told me about your father being the Editor of the " Les Pages Française ", which I receive a copy, once in while, our mail system being so inefficient. What are your plans after graduation? Do you intend to stay in the Soviet Union, or return home? ".
Victor was frozen by the question. He had three more years. And his life was based on " here and now ", philosophy at his young age of Twenty. He had not changed his mind on returning back home. If the father had concerns on his relation with his daughter, he had to make it clear to him, to her and to himself, that his intentions were to return.
" I have no doubt in mind that I will return, Mr. Kalfayan ", he said, " But then, who knows what might happen in the next few years ".
That night, Victor couldn't sleep. He couldn't wait till the classes would be over and meet Anaïs to ask her about the peculiar inquisition her father was engaged in. What were his objectives? Why did he showed the interest of his movements after his graduation ?. He felt that it was an intrusion in his privacy. Granted he had a relation with his daughter, but both were mature enough to face future management of their lives. Or, was she involved in that inquest, and didn't have the courage to ask herself? Thoughts and doubts were being bombarded in his brain. A female's demands and an elderly complain will never cease in this life, he thought. Not a single century, or even enlightenment, will never be able to satisfy those two individuals.
The light coming in from the window wouldn't let him close his eyes. The morning crept in, and his thoughts never halted.
Vladimir was up too.
" I have time this afternoon to take you to the " Address House ", if you have time, and can get away from your love life ", he said, jokingly.
" Oh, Vladimir, not today, I have some problems to resolve. I tell you later about it. I am quite confused right now ", he answered.
" I'll see you tonight, don't be late ". And Vladimir left.
After classes, he went hurriedly the place, where they met everyday. Anaïs was waiting for him. That was a relief. They shared a friendly kiss and they set on the grounds of the campus, on a bench. They were both silent. It was unusual for Victor to be silent. Anaïs sensed that there was something wrong.
" What's bothering you dear ", she asked, " did you have a good day? ".
" Yes my day was all right, but my night was restless, I couldn't sleep for a moment. Your father's question really disturbed me. Why did he ask me about my future? Did he have you in mind? Did it apply to us? I couldn't figure out. Has he asked that question to your previous boyfriend?"
" Maybe I should tell you something about my family, if you promise me that you will never disclose it to anybody, would you promise it?"
" Yes I promise, what is it? ".
" My mother and my father have been wanting to return to France, from the day they set foot in this country. Of course, it is an absolute, impossible realisation. They have been living in a terror and an hypocritical existence all the years they have been here. Everything they do or speak, is a make believe, untrue performance. The whole country lives this way. The ones who tell the truth, don't live very long. So when I met you, and told them about you, they began to nurture a new hope. You will marry me, one day, move overseas, and eventually they'll have a chance to return, to join their daughter. Do you see their illusion, Victor? I know that, it's a dream for them, so I don't want to disappoint them. Let them hang on to hopeful fantasy. That will hurt nobody. Please don't get upset on this subject. You are not accountable for anything. I am a very liberal thinker. Whatever will be, will be ".
Victor, listened to her, looked at her wet eyes and gave her a kiss.
" At this stage of my life I cannot handle but one obligation. To continue my studies, and to get graduated. After that, I don't know, and cannot foretell the future. From what you tell me, if we don't end up together, it will devastate your parents. It is your duty, I believe, to awaken them from false dreams. Now, dear, I don't mean I don't love you. But we both know that nothing is permanent. I hope you understand my point of view. And I promise you, I will never bring this subject, in our relationship, never again ".
" I agree with you Victor, and I am convinced by your judgement. And I always will love you ".
" Since we are going the other side of the Kremlin, on Kalinin Prospect, Vladimir, can we stop at the GUM, I want to see if they have the record player, that was displayed last week, when I was there with Anaïs. I saved enough for one, you can help me decide, all right?"
" Of course, I love to have music in the room, let's go ".
They took the Metro from Universitet Linya and at Biblioteka Linya they interchanged to Kalininskaya Linya. From there it was a short walk to Dom Address, on Kalinin Prospect.
A few steps up, in to a great hall, from which a long hallway appeared. A lady sitting in front of a counter greeted them.
Vladimir introduced Victor and explained what they were there for.
She handed them a form and asked them to fill it up.
They moved to the far side of the counter, and Vladimir helped Victor with the form.
" Your name Victor, your address, your occupation. What is the person's name that you're looking
" Madeleine Findji… Madeleine Findji… and …and…I forgot her husbands name, how stupid of me. Maybe she can find it just by her maiden name, shall we try? If not I have to end up writing to my mother to ask her for her name".
Vladimir approached the lady at the counter, and asks her if its possible to look at her maiden name.
The lady asked for the form, looked at it, and said.
" Wait here, I will look in the dossiers ". And off she went.
Ten minutes later, she came back, looked at the two young men with a regretful stare.
" The files show that she has been displaced, I cannot help you with more information ". And she turned her back, and went into the room behind her.
Vladimir, with a sad, pitiful expression, told Victor.
" They always do this, they are full of misinformation, and they always give you misleading tips. They did the same about my father for years. They used to give the death dates of the Gulag Camp Prisoner's, the wrong, or differing dates, to coincide with the War, to distance them from the period of the Purges. I am really sorry, Victor, I never gave up to look for my father, you shouldn't either. Why don't you write your mother immediately, to get her husband's name? Do you still feel to go to GUM?"
" What "displaced" means, Vladimir?"
" The right meaning of "displaced" is, that she moved, from one place to another, and they have no information where she'll be now ".
" I'll write my letter to night, he have a lot of time, let's go to GUM. Something has to cheer me up ".
They walked down towards the Moskva River, had a long stroll on the embankment, and headed for GUM. A long line was formed for what it looked like a new delivery of some commodity. They approached at the start of the line, and to their amazement, the item was a record player with attached speakers. Victor ran to the end of the line, knowing that soon enough it will be sold out. He didn't even look at the price. When his turn came, the price was forty Roubles. He decides to buy it. Between both of them, it would be easy to carry the box back to their room.
" Let's buy a few records ". Said Victor.
The selection was. The fourth piano concerto of Beethoven, the second piano concerto of Rachmaninoff, both played by the great soloist Sviatoslav Richter.
Vladimir selected, a small 45-rpm, record of dancing music.
The moment they entered their room, the music was heard all over the first floor.
Ten months had gone by, from the day Victor had come to Moscow.
Spring had followed the winter chilly days. The skies were cleared and brightened. The fields were flourishing and getting attractive.
The warm weather had brought a new confidence and hope in him.
He was preparing his exams very diligently and tirelessly.
The year had provided an ocean of knowledge. His diary's pages were full of underlined memories. Comments written in capital letters. Very private observations of the existing activities. Questions, of which some were answered and some were left in the dark. A love, which had sometimes created doubts and hesitations.
All in all, during those ten months, he had only received four letters from home. Admittedly, he had also blamed himself for not being disciplined to write regularly. But the parent's communication had been mostly righteous and full of vigilance and admonishment, and above all reassurance of future successes.
His mother, Christine had become impatient with him. She had criticised him for failing to find Madeleine. She had sent Madeleine's family name, long ago, but Victor was acting unconcerned about the matter.
At last, he had promised her to go to the " Address House ", as soon as his exams were over.
An evening at the end of June, Philip and Jean came to visit and listen to Victor's records, which by now they were close to hundred, and mostly classical masterpieces.
During their conversation, they announced that the Foreign Student Organization had submitted plans to visit Leningrad, and Yalta, each for two weeks, during school holidays. The trips would follow each other. In July, Yalta was the first destination, and in August Leningrad would be the second destination.
"What great news, Yalta and Leningrad. Will it cost us anything?" asked Victor.
" Nothing ", said Philip, " and we will get paid two months in advance, we have to sign up for the excursion, by next week, Victor, if you want to come, we'll put your name with our names ".
" Do you know the details? Are we going to be escorted by overseers, like kids? Or they are going to leave us alone to explore the cities by ourselves. If we will be under surveillance, like we are here, forget it, I'll go by myself, and I find somebody to go with me, like Vladimir, who knows his way around ".
" If the Foreign Students Union is organising it, I am sure they will supervise everybody, Victor, you know that. So you don't want to travel with us?"
" Find out, first, and then I'll make a decision, I don't know if Vladimir wants to come either ".
The same evening, the sky above their heads was so clear, they could count the stars. So they decided to walk up the Lenin Hills, which was not far from their Dormitory, and take some photos of Moscow's glittering and shining peaks.
Not ten minutes had past, suddenly from nowhere, three police cars encircled them.
One of the policemen, got out of his car, approached Victor and grabbed his camera and called the other policemen to arrest the three of them and take them to the local police station.
Things happened so fast, that neither of the three, had time to defend themselves.
In the car, they kept telling the police, that they were foreign students, just taking Moscow's luminous roof. And Victor kept asking for his camera, to be given back to him.
They were lined up in front of the chief of the police, and he was shouting at them, that it was categorically forbidden to take photos of Moscow.
Victor told him to take the film, and to give his camera back to him, or else he will call the President of the University.
Meanwhile, the three noticed a bottle of Vodka, on the floor, near the foot of the desk. They pointed the bottle to him. He quickly stood up, took the film from the camera, gave the camera back to Victor, and called another policeman, and ordered him.
" Take the students back to their Dormitories ".
Another significant momentous in Victor's diary. The comedy of oppression.