Today I learned about Kourdakov, Part 2. Chapter 3: The Missing Family”
- Grandfather’s legend
- White Guard: anti-Communist
- Married a “princess.”
- Successful farmer in 1928: horse, plow, mower
- Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture
- Reign of terror
- Confiscation, and starvation
- Stolen products were exported
- Grandfather crushed a bureaucrat to death.
“But my grandfather was not one to give in easily to anyone. When the Communist intruder turned around, my grandfather grabbed him in a Russian bear hug and, giant man that he was, squeezed until all the man’s ribs and backbone were broken, then dropped him in a lifeless heap on the ground. Immediately my grandfather was arrested and sent off to a special hard-labor camp in Siberia, there to spend nine bitter years, from 1928 to 1937.” (p. 15)
“In October 1937, he was transferred to a lumber camp on the Chulym River in Siberia, and given the job of transporting logs from the river to a narrow gauge railway. Once when the machinery broke down, my grandfather picked up a heavy log, put it on his shoulder, and carried it to the railway car. In doing so, he strained his back and abdomen severely. He died shortly after that.” (p. 15)
His father’s betrayal
“In 1928, when grandfather was exiled to Siberia, Father was sent along with him. At that time he was put into a school close by and raised in a state children’s home. Soon afterward, while still quite young, he became an ardent Communist. Because his father was a prisoner in a labor camp, one of the first things he had to do was to cleanse his record and purge himself of all poisonous family relationships. He renounced my grandfather.” (p. 16)
“For the short time I knew my father, I remember how I loved him and how, when I was a child of three of four years, he would come into my room to say good-night. Even now I can see his piercing black eyes and almost feel his long, curly mustache tickling my face as he leaned over to kiss me. I remember also that he liked to drink and usually when he came home, he immediately sat down at the table with a bottle in front of him. Being in the military, he was often gone for long periods. But when he was home, we had great fun together.” (p. 16)
“The last time I saw my brother Vladimir, he came into the room where I was lying on the bed and told me he was sorry for what happened. He told me I’d be a big, tough guy someday and that a little accident never really hurt anyone. Then he hugged me and said good-bye and walked out of the room, and out of my life. I have never seen him since, and I lost all track of him.” (p. 17)
The story of his father, told by a heavy-drinking colonel.
“Your father was a most interesting and capable man. He felt he had to wash away the sins of your grandfather and so he became a real soldier in the Communist army. Though he had only finished the fourth grade in school, he was such a fine soldier and political activist that he went very high up. he fought in many battles, risking his life for the Communist party again and again, especially in Turkestan, where he headed up the brigade that crushed a number of revolts. Then when the Finnish war broke out, the first thing he did was volunteer for duty on the Finnish front. He led a brigade there and served heroically.” (p. 18)
Stalin died in 1953. Khrushchev came into power in 1956. (Dates not provided.)
“You ask why they took him away? I can see the question on your face. Well, Sergei, you must understand that Krushchev was taking power from Stalin and there was a great fight in the higher levels of the party. They cannot change things quickly, but slowly, degree by degree. To consolidate his own power, Krushchev was ordering the elimination of those high-ranking officers who were known to support Stalin. It had to be done quietly and a little bit at a time so as not to arouse suspicion.” (p. 19)
“That’s why your father was taken in the middle of the night. He served Communism as few other men I have known. But like so many others I knew, he just disappeared. The second day after they took him, another man came to our headquarters, here at the base, and announced that he was now the new base chief. He said, ‘Kourdakov was a very bad man and is under investigation.’ That’s the last I heard of your father. He simply disappeared from sight, never to be seen again.'” (pp. 19-20)
“The colonel went on. ‘Of course, your mother didn’t last long after your father disappeared. She died about four months later, I think. Sergei, it was really of a broken heart from the pain she suffered. She just lost the will to live. I remember when she died and that’s when we lost track of you. I don’t remember what happened to you after that. If I could have found you, the son of an old comrade and friend, I would have helped you all I could.”
“By the way, Sergei,” he asked, “what did happen to you after your mother and father died?'” (p. 20)
Chapter 4: A Street Orphan
- At age 4, he was taken in by a family.
- He was treated well by the adults.
- When he was 6, their son tried to drown him.
- He fled to become a street child.
- He found shelter in the train station.
“Then I remembered the small coin in my pocket and I had an idea. I wandered over to the wheat cake stand once more and had a look around the stand. There, in back on the floor, I noticed a square sheet of metal on which the attendant stood. I walked over to the metal sheet, looking as innocent as I knew how, then, fishing around in my pocket and pulling out my last little coin, I tossed it onto the metal. It landed with a loud noise and began to roll.” (p. 25)
“The clattering sound on the metal caught the woman’s attention and, thinking it was her own money falling on the plate, she swung around and looked down. Quickly I dashed over, grabbed a handful of wheat cakes, and ran away as fast as I could. Behind me I could hear her excited shouts: ‘Stop that little boy! He’s a thief! Stop him, stop him!’ But I was too far away and quickly disappeared in the crowd. I found a quiet corner, far from the food stands, and sat down to eat. Hungrily I gulped down all but two of the cakes. Those two I decided to save for later. I was learning fast! Then I searched and found a dark corner at the far edge of the train station, where I huddled up for a good night’s sleep. I had survived my first day in the big world.” (p. 25)
A policeman caught him after ten days. He was sent to an orphanage.
“On March 1, 1958, I celebrated my seventh birthday. It was a big day. Now I could go to school next term! When I was enrolled, the teacher told us, ‘All children in grades one to three must join the Octobrianiks.’
“I had never heard that work before. But the teacher explained that it was the Communist organization for children in the first three grades. ‘You don’t belong to your parents any longer; now you belong to the Communist state.’ Since I didn’t have any parents, it didn’t matter to whom I belonged. The teacher said that to be Octobrainiks meant we were now ‘grandsons of Lenin.'” (p. 28)
“Lenin? Who is he? I had heard the name and read it on posters at the train station, but knew very little about him.”
‘Lenin is the greatest man who ever lived. He not only lived, but he lives now and will always live,’ she said. ‘Who wants to be grandchildren of Lenin and go on outings and activities?’ the teacher continued. And I, along with the others, joined up eagerly. Me, a grandson of Lenin! That’s great, I thought.” (p. 28)
“I made friends with the other children at the home, and I also made some discoveries. I had thought this was an orphanage for homeless children who, like me, had no parents. I soon learned differently. One day I talked to a boy who was sobbing and asking, ‘Why do I have to be here? I have a mother and father. Why can’t I be home with them?’ That was the first I knew that not everyone in the home was an orphan. Only later did I realize that these homes were primarily for children taken from their parents – mothers and fathers who were declared unfit by the state because of their religion or political beliefs or for some other reason.” (p. 28)
“I tried to comfort this little boy, but I couldn’t explain to him why he had to be away from his parents when they were close by. I couldn’t understand it myself. He had parents. Why couldn’t he be home with them? Whenever I missed my own mother’s caresses and my father’s bushy kisses, I thought about that little boy and wondered why he didn’t go home to be with his parents. If I had parents, I’d run away to them. Why didn’t he?”
“But more and more, I came to accept things as they were. After all, a nine-year-old boy has friends and games and other things to think about.” (p. 29)
What to conclude from this?
- Politics was dominant: grandfather, father.
- Drinking was common among leaders: father, colonel.
- By age 6, he was resourceful: a survivor.
- Lenin was a father God/godfather.
- The state owned the children.