Name: Agrafena Spiridonovna Likachëva (birth surname never given), called Granyechka

Date of birth: 1902

Place of birth: Russian Empire

Year I created her: Probably 2001

Role: Secondary Character

Granyechka came to America when she was 12 years old, around the time the First World War broke out. Her father is the spiritual leader of a church in Greenwich Village, where her family also lives. (Eastern Orthodox priests are allowed to marry and have kids.)

Boris’s priest, Father Spiridon (who was just referred to as “the priest” in the first draft of the first book), offered Granyechka to Boris as a potential wife in the Spring of 1922. As his mother explains to Lyuba when she first brings up the potential match:

“Our priest told me his third-born daughter is only two years younger than Bórya and that we might get them to meet each other.  Grányechka, her name is.  She has a voice like an angel in the church choir.  And we may force the meeting a little by having her start to ‘assist’ Borísko with the children in the religious school.  Grányechka is twenty and finishing up her program at a local two-year school for aspiring artists.  Her artistic passion is weaving.  We went over to the priest’s house to talk more about this matter, and he showed us all the beautiful wall hangings, tapestries, and blankets his lovely daughter has made.  She also does quilts in her spare time.  She’ll do that from home after she’s married and spend the rest of her time raising as many children as God allows her to have.  Bórya better not insult the priest by turning down his wonderful daughter after so much trouble.”

“Will this woman mind that Borís already has a child and isn’t a virgin?  Won’t she want someone more pure in character?  And what if he beats her up when she’s pregnant like he did with me?”

“She knows about his past sins and how much penance he’s done to try to absolve himself of everything in the eyes of God.”

“At least if he ends up marrying this new woman, she’ll give him more than enough children to take his mind off Tatyana for good!”

“She has black hair and brown eyes.  About five foot three.  She’s sort of slim.  Her other talents are singing, dancing, and reciting Scripture.  Her proud father bragged to us that his Grányechka practically knows the whole Gospel by heart!”

“And if he ends up marrying her, she won’t mind that you have a relationship with me and Tatyana?”

“This is a woman who truly knows the meaning of forgiveness.  Every night in her prayers, her father said, she prays for the souls of the Bolsheviks to all be saved so they might not go to Hell.  She’s the third of seven.  There are Yevdokíya, twenty-five, Yeléna, twenty-three, Grányechka, twenty, Pyotr, nineteen, Róza, seventeen, Márta, fifteen, and Filípp, ten.”

After it comes out that Boris is not only infertile, but impotent too, Granyechka decides to break off the engagement, and her father agrees with her. Boris is furious to be dumped, and becomes extremely ill-behaved towards the children in the religious school. He even tries to ruin Granyechka’s wedding to Georgiy Likachëv (Gosha) and punches Gosha when he and Granyechka are about to cut the cake. But Granyechka, spouting her favorite line, says, “You’re jealous of our happiness.  But God will forgive you.  God always forgives everyone for everything.”

Granyechka is a little one-dimensional during the first book, since she’s not so much of a main character, but during the second book, she’s more of a prominent secondary character. She also gets more in-depth than just some overly pious priest’s daughter. She’s a normal woman on the inside, as she demonstrates to Kseniya when she’s giving her woman-to-woman advice and information after Father Spiridon discovers Boris and Kseniya’s illicit relationship.

She starts growing past her rather naïve idea of piety and forgiveness after she loses her children Mariya (Manyechka) and Khariton to diphtheria in April 1927, suffers a miscarriage, has a stillborn she appropriately names Innokentiy, and realizes Boris isn’t so sincere in his efforts at redemption and claims of living a good Christian life. And when she’s in the hospital after the deaths of her children, because of her precarious mental state, she stands up for herself against some nasty nurse trying to give her a shot drying up her breastmilk and berating her for nursing and having used a midwife. She dribbles some of her milk onto her children’s mouths before they’re put in a coffin, 3-month-old Khariton in 3-year-old Manyechka’s arms.

Some of my favorite Granyechka lines from the second book, demonstrating that she’s a flesh and blood person with emotional depth, not just some cardboard cutout constantly saying, “But God will forgive you. God always forgives everyone for everything.”

“He keeps getting better and better!  No wonder you always felt pain!  You weren’t even completely aroused or physically receptive if he only kissed you and touched your breasts!  Trust me, someday you’ll find a respectable man who doesn’t mind marrying a non-virgin, and you’ll get to experience sexual relations as God intended them, for mutual pleasure.”

“Ask any happily married woman and she’ll tell you it’s a damn lie!  And you’re not bound to him forever just because of that.  People make mistakes all the time.  You shouldn’t be punished for a short-sighted, youthful mistake by being forced to marry Borís.  Sometimes one is with more than one man her entire life, for no fault of her own.  You were taken advantage of and lied to, even if you weren’t raped exactly.  That doesn’t make you equal to the town harlot.  I know there’s a double standard in place, but some men are decent and noble and don’t judge a book by its cover.”

“I’m sure your family will believe your innocence and not unfairly judge you.  I hope this teaches you to beware of men who come bearing gifts and reciting poetry.  Any fool can memorize anything.  It might take a gifted memory to remember long passages instead of just a few lines, but it’s not like reciting memorized lines is tantamount to performing surgery.”

“His ideas were very un-Biblical.  He needs a good counselor, priest or not, to set him straight and tell him God didn’t create women to not enjoy coitus and that screaming in pain is actual pain, not evidence of virginity.”

Grányechka presses on her chest. “No matter how much or how hard I press, the milk won’t stop coming out.  God is torturing me by having me still express milk for a baby who’ll never drink it ever again.  I should be nursing my Kharitonochka right now, not walking to Yonkers to break the news.”

“No!  I don’t want to go back there and see their limp little bodies!  It’s a reminder of how I failed them as a mother.  Look how I rent my clothes right after they drew their last gasping breaths.  Why did I have to get so attached to them?  Did I think only other people lost their children to childhood diseases?  I used to go walking in our church cemetery back in the Motherland, and I saw so many sad little graves of children and babies.  Many families had buried more than a few children.  That’s why people have large families, besides not being allowed to use contraceptives.  They don’t know how many will live till adulthood.”

“I’m almost twenty-five.” Grányechka screams when she looks down at her milk-soaked blouse. “Look at all this good milk going to waste!  Do you think my Kharitonochka would come back to life if I went back home and dribbled some of my milk down his tiny throat?”

“If my children were still alive, I’d be nursing my baby right now and there’d be no disgusting mess!” Grányechka screams. “I can’t help leaking breastmilk when it’s what my body’s supposed to be doing!”

“I’m very disappointed in you,” Grányechka says. “My family and I have been too forgiving of you all along.  I’m sure you’ve been serious during the periods you’ve been rather good, but your evil inclination is too strong in you.  You’re always pulled back into sinning, no matter how well you’ve been behaving.  Perhaps at this point it just feels more familiar and comfortable to sin than to go through the hard process of self-examination, repentance, and permanently reforming your character and behavior.  Maybe God really doesn’t always forgive everyone for everything.”

“My father entrusted you with the lives and souls of our church’s children,” Grányechka says. “You have betrayed that trust too many times to count.  We’re done with giving you second chances and forgiving abominable behavior.”

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