This was originally one of a batch of twenty posts I put together on 24 June 2012 for future installments of the now-defunct Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop. It differs slightly from the published version in The Twelfth Time. Karla’s adoptive family’s name is now Savvin, and I expunged the pedantic accent marks, in addition to a few other edits here and there. Ginny and his mother’s move back to Russia was also changed to 1914 from 1917, so Ginny was seven, not ten.
Since her unexpected arrival in January, Kárla has become well-ensconced in the Stálin household. Leoníd puts in as much time with her as he can in between work, politics, and going out with friends, but Kárla feels strange about starting to call any man Papa at her age. Leoníd has agreed it might not happen overnight, if it happens at all, and lets her call him by his nickname Lyonya. She’s taken much more easily to calling his parents Dédushka Yura and Bábushka Ínnushka.
Kárla is now nine years old, and in the third grade at a state-run school. Nélya, who just turned five years old, is in the nursery class in the school, and walks to and from school with Kárla every day. Kárla misses Naína and Kátya, but feels relatively placated by having an unofficial little sister to play with and take care of. She also loves helping and playing with two-and-a-half-year-old Ínga.
“She resembles her father so much,” Geórgiya comments as she works on a paper for one of her classes at her teaching college. “They have the same azure eyes and black hair. He was on the tall side for his age, but not a giant. I wonder if she’ll be tall too.”
“How come her patronymic’s Grigóriyevna if you say her father’s real name is Mikhaíl?” Kárla asks as she helps Ínga build a tower with blocks. “Did you not want people to find out his real identity and get you in trouble?”
“No one ever called him Mikhaíl unless he were in trouble, or on official documents. I always called him Grigóriy. I know it’s strange for a Russian to have an actual middle name, not simply a patronymic, but he was born in East Prussia and lived there till he was ten years old. His parents were copying the locals in giving him a middle name. Everyone else calls him Ginny.”
“Zhénya? But that’s the nickname for Yevgéniy.”
“Ginny. It was his childish mispronunciation of the word ‘genie,’ which was his parents’ nickname for him. Now instead of having a more grownup nickname, he’s forever going to answer to a name gotten from a babyish mispronunciation. And I’m told Ginny is a woman’s name in the English-speaking world.”
“He’s lucky he got to reunite with his parents in America. I don’t know what happened to my parents, though I think my father must be dead, and my mother was in prison, my cousin told me. She thinks my mother got out of prison and went to North America, but that’s probably just what she wants to believe.”
“Do you really want to see your parents again, if either is alive? Sure some people were mistakenly put in prison, or went there for non-political reasons, but you’ve said your cousin and your friend told you your parents were anti-Lénin. They were enemies of the people. Ínga’s father is from an anti-Lénin family, but they weren’t so stupid they got in trouble for that. They weren’t actively protesting against him or doing outrageous things like using his picture as toilet rags.”
“I’m too young to understand politics. I only know what I was taught at the orphanage, that Comrade Lénin was a hero who brought the Russian Empire into the modern era. My parents were very mistaken for being opposed to him. Naína is the daughter of my mother’s sister, and their family was also anti-Lénin.”
“You were taught correctly. And I’m sure your families weren’t bad, evil people just because they had a different of political opinion. It’s just that they were severely wrong. I believe enemies of the people can be rehabilitated. Some of them genuinely didn’t know the truth and were under the influence of Tsarist propaganda. Did you know the Tsar had only point zero zero six percent of Russian blood in his traitorous body? We figured this out in a mathematics class I took some years back. I hope our new leader will be another proud Russian. Our homeland deserves to be ruled by our own people.”
“It’s taking so long for them to choose a permanent new leader. Comrade Lénin was taken away from us almost three years ago.”
“Oh, things will settle down soon. I’m annoyed at the delay in choosing a definitive supreme leader too, but these things happen when you’ve never had a change in power in a new empire before. So long as it’s not that stupid Georgian whom Comrade Lénin was said not to like, the one who adopted my family’s name when he got into politics. I don’t want to be ruled by a non-Russian again, and if Comrade Lénin disliked him, he must’ve had valid reasons for doing so. With any luck, it’ll be someone he liked and wanted to succeed him.”
“I wish your family could adopt Naína and Kátya too. They said they were planning to write to our friends at the orphanage while they were still in the country. If only I remembered the address of our old orphanage, I could write and ask where they are.”
“You don’t need them. If they’re trying to leave our glorious Soviet state, they’re enemies of the people. I’m sure they’re not aware of being enemies of the people, but their beliefs and actions aren’t in line with Soviet policy. It’s too bad they couldn’t be successfully retaught in the orphanage, the way you were.”
“I’m the one who’s going to share in the future glories of the Soviet Union,” Kárla says proudly. “Maybe it is their loss if they wanted to leave and not give our new government a chance. But I still miss them, and don’t understand how they could be enemies of the people.”
“There are degrees of enemies of the people, to be sure. They were more the garden variety type than belligerents who get sent to prison or Siberia. But make no mistake, you’re far better off here than you’d be abroad. Some force greater than yourself, what enemies of the people might call God, moved you to walk on top of that train and made you fall off and break your leg. It must be because you were meant to stay here, because your destiny lies in the modern Soviet Union and not the unenlightened West.”