On the remote rivers

I watched an Indian movie about coffee, on Kofein's Facebook page. Beautiful movies:




You know, after all, Bollywood "does not chase the empty." Everything is great there - the picture is cool and the music, and the idea itself - so to speak, "advertising message." But to me (already quite old "hemp"), watching the film, somehow by itself (because in my head even earlier was carved another "advertising message") in connection with the words "India" and "coffee" - comes to mind the jar:




An instant coffee  in such jars was a very popular "deficit" during the "late soviet time" - that is, it was difficult and expensive to obtain it. From an Indian jar - memories turned me in the direction of my last post here on the blog, about the Ukrainian Cossack Yakov Malik, who fell into slavery to the Turks, and they sold him even further and he eventually there so "twisted", that he became the vizier of the Indian state Gujarat. And then another Ukrainian, who was also in slavery, came to my mind. This character is quite modern. I'm sure no one has heard anything about him – except me...

I met him by chance in the late 1980s, thanks in part to such an Indian jar.


 It was in Siberia, in the summer, just in the season of white nights, heat, swamp suffocation, gnats and mosquitoes. I then worked on a big river Pyakupur, on a motor boat. During the day, my colleague and I worked, and spent several nights at a tourist camping, guarded by an old man, we called him "Grigorovich." (it says, that his father name was Grigoriy, t.e. Gregory). He was a native of Putivl (it’s a small town, at Sumy oblast of Ukraine, very ancient and famous for it`s history),  my countryman. Gryhorovych was a former navy warrant officer, "on the mainland" he had an apartment somewhere in Tallinn, but he left that apartment to his daughter, and "recruited himself to the North", where he and his wife in the city also earned an apartment in a plywood panel house. Grigorovych was aged, unable to work hard, and he got an “easy” job - to guard the tourist camping, which was far from the town, in the taiga, on the river. He loved nature, and this job was a king of a "dream for the naturalist". In the summer there all were good  - fishing, mushrooms, berries, vacationers come to the camping from the town. But in winter – it was  very specific. Everyone lived there in "barrels", these are iron huts , in the shape of a pipe or a barrel. And in winter Grigorovych lived there alone, because his wife did not like such "romance" and lived in the town. The snow (and snowstorms) are there from September to May, and sometimes in June, the frost reach -40-50 C degrees, and the hut heating is possible with firewood only. So all winter Grigorovych did only chopping firewood and heating. As he often said when he grumbled, about his fate: “I left the comfortable apartment in Tallinn to my daughter. And I work as the donkey here, in the North. "


And there, at that camping, one evening I met another man, already quite aged too, who worked at the road, near the camping, as  the bulldozer driver. When he found out that I had a motor boat, he offered to go fishing. He said that I had a boat, and he had fishing rods and he knew a wonderful "fish" place. I agreed and he and we floated to the place. The place turned out to be near the camping, five kilometers upstream. Here it is, marked on the map with a red cross, and the camping is marked with a "bubble":




We started to fish. The secret of this place was, as you can see from the map, that near the river there is a swampy lake (oxbow), from which a thin stream flows into the river. The water that flowed from the lake had something in it, that attracted river fish and there was a lot of it at the confluence of that stream. I fished there like never before in my life. Almost one by one the perch, and others  local fish pecked and all the big ones, "on size of the palm " it was probably the smallest there. We fished all night, but in June-July the nights there were "white", ie almost like day, or not too thick twilight. We sat almost until morning and probably caught by good buckets of fish. Well, in the course of the fishing  we talked with the man.


As far as  I remember, his name was Ivan, his family name was some Ukrainian, but we spoke Russian. He came from the Kursk region (now it is Russia), from an Ukrainian village, not far from Sumy. Although it is now considered to be "Rasha", the whole districts are populated by native Ukrainians. Well, you already know how it happens with the Muscovites-neighbours - "voluntarily joined." Vanya was the youngest of three brothers and they had a sister, the eldest. When the war broke out in 1941 and the Germans came, their mother was killed in shelling or bombing. And their father was at war and disappeared there. The sister was already an adult, something under the age of 20. Some policeman (Russian, who went to  serve Germans) began to harassment to her, but the sister did not like him and refused him. The policeman, in order to punish her, arranged for her and her brothers to be taken to work in Germany. Vanya was then 6-7 years old. He got with another brother, who was 14-15 years old, to work for a farmer, they called him in German word "bauer". First he was put to graze geese, then goats and cows. He highly praised the Germans for being economical, they fed the slaves well, taught him the German language, and to read and write. When the Germans were defeated, they (Ivan’s family) all fell into the western zone. The sister met an American soldier and got married. And the older brothers - one was for staying in the West, and the other - to return to the USSR. And one night the brother who was a pro-Soviet took this little Vanya and fled with him to the Soviet zone. And the other brother, the one who was the oldest of the brothers (and the smartest, as it turned out), remained in the western zone. Later he went to Australia, his sister with her husband went to America. And these two brothers - their "liberators" were taken to the camp, somewhere in the Irkutsk region, as "traitors of the Homeland." Well, then, as it was then called "settlement", without the right to leave, for 10 years. From there Vanya , as he grew up - went to work in Kolyma (one more notorious GULAG place), digging for gold. He worked there as a tractor driver. And only then, becoming a free man, he could go on vacation once a year as a free man. That is, he spent more than 10 years in complete slavery, and at last he became almost free. He got married, a daughter was born. But happiness was not for long. Somewhere in the early 1970s they went to Sochi (it is a resort at  the Black Sea). They spent their vacation there, the wife and daughter stayed more, and Ivan went to Siberia by train, because the vacation was over and he had to go to work. In the train  he was  poisoned with sleeping-pills by some Caucasians, and he found himself again in slavery, in Dagestan, in a mountain village.  For days he worked, cared for cattle, mowed, dug, etc., and slept in a barn, chained to an iron chain. He lived like that for more than a year, and then managed to escape. For three days he walked in the mountains at night. Then the local policemen caught  him, and returned to the owner (master), for 50 rubles. The master severely beat Vanya right in the police department, with the same chain on which he then led Ivan to the village. And he promised, right in the village on the piazza, in front of the neighbors, that if he ran away again, he would just kill him. So Ivan still lived there. He said that one of the owner's sons became attached to him and learned "Russian" from him. But in the ninth or tenth year, Ivan ran away again. This time he was not caught. He returned home to Kolyma - and he was already forgotten there, "buried" a long time ago. His former wife was married for the second time, she already has a new family and children, his own daughter does not recognize him, according to the documents he is "missing person". Well, so as not to irritate his soul there - he recruited to work in Western Siberia, to begin a new life there, after these 10 years of slavery. That is, just try to imagine his life - he spent about 25 !!! years in absolute slavery, on the chain, or in barbed wire camp. But how tasty and cheap was the ice cream at the soviet union blessed time…


And, you may ask, where here something about coffee??! So I answer, that coffee is always here. I started with the memory of an Indian jar of instant coffee. So, when I had dinner at that camping in Siberia, I was sitting by the fire and just going to drink tea. And then the man approached the fire (it was the Ivan, who spent 25 years in slavery, we later fished with him), he saw that I had a jar of Indian coffee in my hands and hinted that it would be nice to have some coffee. I tell him that there is no more coffee, that there is tea in the jar. Well, tea also would be nice, he said. We drank tea, talked and went fishing, where Ivan told me his story.

For sure, he would tell you, that life is too short to drink bad coffee, but I don't know if he's still alive.


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