Osyenka

Name: Osip Ilyich Lebedev

Date of birth: January 1924

Place of birth: Greenwich Village

Year I created him: 2001

Role: Secondary main character

Osyenka, the only blood child his parents have together, was named for his paternal uncle, who was murdered by the Bolsheviks in the Spring of 1917. Lyuba is his halfsister on his mother’s side, and on his father’s side, he knows nine of his ten halfsisters—Galina (Galya), Matryona, Dinara, Yelena (Lyolya), Svetlana, Alla, Vera, Natalya, and Fyodora. Like his father and his cousin Yevgeniya (Zhenyushka) Sheltsova (Dinara’s firstborn, named after the first Mrs. Lebedeva), he has heterochromia. In the three of them, the condition manifests itself through one blue eye and one brown eye.

Lyuba’s baby halfbrother is just so damn cute. He’s only a child in the second book (and an infant in the last few chapters of the first book), but every time he appears, he’s just so sweet and charming. I recently decided that in the third book, he’s going to fall in love with and marry Katrin’s firstborn Oliivia. He, Lyuba and Ivan’s oldest son Fedya, and Ivan’s much-younger cousin Vasya are serving in the Second World War, and at the end, they make the horrifying discovery that Darya (Lyuba and Ivan’s third-born) and Oliivia are in a camp they’re liberating. (They’re going to go to Europe in 1940, intending only to be there on a summer tour, but after the invasion of France, they get stuck there. In 1942, they get in trouble for attending an anti-Nazi protest. They wouldn’t have been the only Americans in the camps.) After Oliivia and Darya get well enough to come home, Osyenka will start courting Oliivia, while treating her very gently and sweetly because of what she went through.

Here are some of little Osyenka’s appearances and mentions in the second book, in which he ages from eight months to a month away from his seventh birthday:

Nineteen-month-old Ósyenka climbs into his halfsister’s lap and points to a bandage on his right arm. “Arm hurts.”

“Ósyenka was a very brave little boy today,” Véra says. “We took him and Fyodora to a free clinic giving diphtheria shots.  Dinara took Zhényushka too, and Iván’s aunt took her two kids.  Unfortunately, all the rest of us already earned our immunity the hard way.”

***

“We let little Króshka give Ósyenka doggy kisses when he was only a few days old,” Mrs. Lebedeva says. “I’m sure they would’ve had a fit in a hospital.”

Lyuba smiles at the walking stick she gets from four-and-a-half-year-old Ósyenka, the best her little brother could do to get her a gift made from the traditional five-year gift of wood.  Her evil inclination wants to beat Iván over the head with it for letting their family sink so far down financially, but she continues putting on a happy exterior for the sake of their children and her friends and family.

“My teacher in Sunday school said God makes special miracles for special people.  I think God wants my last two sisters to come home because we’re a special family.  They’ll be so happy to learn they finally have a brother.”

“Now only Serafima and our cousin Nádya have to come to America, and our family will be complete!  I can’t wait to meet them too!” Ósyenka goes back to playing with a model aeroplane.

***

Ósyenka peers into Ígor’s tiny face. “He’s cute.  I wish he could stay here instead of moving to Minnesota.”

“I’d be very sad if I had to leave my baby behind,” Lyuba says. “You’re going to come visit us soon, I hope, when we have him baptized.  Ványa might not want to be my husband anymore, but at least my Górik will be getting baptized.”

Mátushka said that bad man Borís hurt you and played tricks on you.  Why would Iván be mad at you because someone hurt you and did mean things to you?”

***

As the porter puts the luggage on top in her private cabin, Lyuba hugs everyone goodbye and lets them cuddle Ígor.  She hugs Ósyenka last.

“Will you still be my big sister even if you live far away?”

“Of course I’ll still be your big sister.  You still have ten big sisters, even if I won’t be in the city anymore.  It doesn’t change having the same mother.”

***

Lyuba rejoins the group and stands between Iván and Ginny for several pictures.  Her little brother stands in front of her and begins twisting around.

“Hold still for the picture, Ósyenka,” Mrs. Lebedeva whispers.

“Lyuba’s poking me.  I don’t think she lost all her baby weight yet.”

***

“Maybe if you’d prayed to Saint Anthony, you would’ve found it sooner,” Ósyenka says.

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