There is no big holiday in this, but there is a big grief
Grief and the Holidays
Writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya — about the project Disabled about Victory Day, the phenomenon of victoriousness and the dictionary of war
Ksenia Turkova: How do you conduct quarantine, what has this time become for you? I know you wrote the quarantine story.
Lyudmila Ulitskaya: I really go out on the street less, but in fact nothing has changed fundamentally for us. We both work from home, my husband has a workshop nearby, so we are quarantined – it is rather what we see on TV, what we hear on the radio, these are our talks with friends. I honestly admit that this quarantine has not yet affected me so sharply, and I sympathize with everyone who is having a hard time.
As for the story, it is more of an essay, it is about exactly how we spend these days and how much of this time turned out to be unexpectedly useful and interesting. For me this time has become fruitful: I’m not about the fact that I work madly, I’m about some sort of tidying up of my head..
At home, I took apart books and photographs. I have been living in this apartment for twenty years, and I still could not get myself together. It was very interesting, because I was looking at pictures of people who are no longer there, people whom I loved and who loved me. So this is not an empty time for me. Not to mention the fact that I finally got to the books that lay in a pile by the bed, waiting in the wings, and for many years.
K.T .: Which, for example?
L.U .: There is no special quarantine meaning in them. Well, for example, I read the correspondence between Goethe and Eckermann, which I kept in my head for a long time. But I was somewhat disappointed: today it is not so important and not as interesting as it was, apparently, a hundred years ago. I reread Zamyatin’s novel «we», which was written exactly one hundred years ago and which describes a very interesting situation, and there are several points that just made me jump. The phrase is spoken there: «Everything known is over, then the unknown begins». This phrase is very suitable for our time. A lot of things, familiar, familiar, with which we lived, have ended, and something begins that was not there before.
K.T .: How it feels this year, during the quarantine and epidemic, Victory Day?
L.U .: My husband, artist Andrey Krasulin, and I made a small project dedicated to Victory Day, it is called «Disabled». I wrote an essay on this subject, and he made a wonderful sculpture. The fact is that on April 30, just a few days ago, a man died, who for me represents the image of a disabled person from World War II. This is Boris Arkadyevich Lapin. He went to the front very young, lost a leg, graduated from medical school, defended his dissertation. He is an academician, a prominent scientist, was the director of the Institute of Primatology in Adler. Until his last day, he traveled to work every day, traveled on one leg to Africa, worked with monkeys, developed vaccines … And when he died, I thought that his death was precisely this frontier for me. He was the last of the people close to me who went through the war, who came out of it disabled and who lived their lives with dignity, fruitfulness and absolutely wonderful way. My essay was largely inspired by my husband’s work, in particular, sculpture «Disabled».
Sculpture Disabled. Author Andrey Krasulin
L.U .: For my husband Andrey Krasulin, the topic of disabled people is also personal, because his father, like Boris Arkadyevich Lapin, lost his leg during the war. And he is also one of those worthy people who was able to graduate from the Timiryazevskaya Academy, became a candidate of sciences, worked all his life and walked on one leg very dignified, with a very straight back and with an extraordinary sense of dignity. Once a year I took him to the re-examination commission. He needed to confirm every year that he was disabled..
And so my husband and I decided that as a sign of respect and memory of those people who fought during the Second World War, who came out alive, but crippled, that we should somehow celebrate this for ourselves. Andrey made these sculptures, and I wrote an essay about this. It will probably be included in my next book, but now it is not known when it will be released. We shot a small project on this topic.
K.T. : In recent years, such a phenomenon as «victoriousness», in Russia is becoming more and more tragically grotesque. But this year everything went online, there are no parades, there is no this costume component. Does it all feel different, what has changed?
L.U .: Well what can I tell you… Of the four people I know who are sick with coronavirus infection, all four – doctors. Doctors are now in a very difficult situation, because there are not enough masks, disposable gloves, gowns, and all these protective items. They are sorely lacking. The day before yesterday I was standing on the balcony, and suddenly there was a roar of an airplane, and perhaps two dozen squadrons passed over me, preparing for the air parade. And I looked at it with great internal irritation, because it is a lot of money. And now, when there is not enough money to protect doctors, to protect people who are already sick, carriers of the infection, it is, of course, simply awful that money goes to the parade, at a time when there is an urgent, urgent need to provide all the people who are today are under threat. But this is our tradition.
Because this seamy side of life and the front side of life are very poorly connected. And the state always remembers the front side, but the seamy side is often forgotten. And it made me feel pretty sad.
K.T .: Moreover, the front and seamy sides all diverge further and further.…
This phrase &# 171; We can repeat!&# 187; I just have the deepest insult. No need to repeat!
L.U .: Unfortunately yes. You know, when I was preparing this essay on people with disabilities, I shoveled a huge amount of materials. And, among other things, there were absolutely amazing, unknown events described to me. The fact is that in 1947 a large demonstration of disabled people took place on Red Square. We know all these wonderful May Day demonstrations, demonstrations on November 7, when a huge number of people, with flags, dances, songs and red banners, walked along Red Square. And nothing is known about this demonstration. Then on Red Square came legless, armless, wheelchair users, crawlers. And this is a demonstration, which, of course, I would like to show today, because the mood that we all see is this phrase «We can repeat!» I just have the deepest insult. No need to repeat! And in order not to want to repeat, you need to look into your past, look at this demonstration, which no one has filmed, it is only in the descriptions, and remember those who lived a very difficult life after they returned with disabilities. war. Millions of such people returned, armless, legless, those who were called «samovars», and they lived in special shelters on the island of Valaam so that the people would not see them, so that they would not spoil the beautiful pictures of the joyful post-war life. They were evicted from Moscow first by order of Stalin in 1947, and then this was confirmed by all the authorities, including Khrushchev’s. They confirmed this intention: to remove the disabled from the eyes so that they would not be seen.
In general, the topic of a disabled person began for me when I was a very little girl. I lived in a Moscow courtyard, which was like all courtyards: one decent wing, two barracks, one dilapidated. And in a two-story house, on which a second floor was added, and a staircase was added to it from the outside, a disabled person lived with his wife and three children. He was without two legs, and he was a black drunkard. And I remember very well the picture that amazed me for the rest of my life: how his wife drags him to the second floor on the back. She drags him, and he holds on to her shoulders with one hand, and with the other hand hits her on the head. This picture stuck in my head for life.
K.T .: You uttered the phrase «We can repeat!». We all know these phrases: «To Berlin!» etc. Where do you think such a phenomenon as escape came from? How did it all start? After all, some time ago it was not.
The main painful topic for me – this is the theme of the enemy, because for two decades now we have been living with a constantly evolving idea that, in fact, we have some shortcomings, but these shortcomings are due to the fact that we have enemies that hinder us.
L.U. : The fact is that popular opinion is built up by very specific methods, money is allocated for this, this is radio, this is television, this is the mass media that create a general mood. The main painful topic for me – this is the topic of the enemy, because for two decades now we have been living with the constantly evolving idea that, in fact, we have some drawbacks, but these drawbacks are related to the fact that we have enemies that hinder us. Enemies have now sent us a coronavirus, otherwise everything would be fine. This idea of a conspiracy against the country, against Russia, actually exists. And unprotected souls fall into this idea very well. Because what we have is bad, – it does not depend on us, the enemies slip us all these troubles, and if not for the enemies, then we would have lived perfectly! Therefore, this whole situation is very exaggerated. Inflated by this mood that there are enemies that surround us and yearn for our destruction. The idea of a bipolar world continues to exist. And meanwhile, which poles, what are we talking about?
Today it is ridiculous to talk about a bipolar world, about the fact that there is Russia, but there is some other world that is eager to bring her some kind of trouble. we – one of many countries. We rank first in the world only in terms of territory, our population is not at all great, and moreover, it is decreasing all the time, unlike many other countries where there is a problem of overpopulation.
And in such a situation, people need to give out some «ticket», which everyone would hold in their hands and say: «We are the best, we are the most correct, and everyone else does not think so, do not so». This is an eerily archaic scheme! The world has long become planetary. There are planetary problems that need to be solved by the whole world.
K.T .: In the annotation to his book «Childhood 45-53: tomorrow there will be happiness» you write: «If we do not tell our children, they will not know what the words Stalin meant, victory, communal flat, stage, date, party meeting … "appendage" (to a loaf of bread), new boots or father’s military uniform … What we could not tell with words will be complemented by frayed and faded photographs from family albums». Why is it important to know this «vocabulary of war»?
L.U .: If you go one step higher and treat this problem as if from a bird’s eye view, we live in a conceptual world, and every time we consider such large things, we need to agree on what we mean when we say the words «power», «Liberty», «the state»,«society».
When people screamed &# 171; For Stalin!&# 187;, they, apparently, did not mean personally a person with a mustache, but something else, a certain image.
When people screamed «For Stalin!», they apparently had in mind not a person with a mustache personally, but something else, a certain image. In addition, I must say that my stepfather went through the entire war and even visited the camps, he was an ordinary soldier, he was not an officer, he did not have to lead a company or regiment into battle. He said that he never once exclaimed «For Stalin!» I have not heard in all the time of my military life that this is one of the propaganda legends, mythologemes. What did people shout when they went into battle? Were they going into battle with high enthusiasm, or were there a detachment of Smershevites or some other group behind them, which they were forced to run forward? We do not know all this well. I knew very well the people who are almost gone today, who fought and who, by the way, never talked about the war. This is an interesting observation: those who fought, it was very difficult to get them to tell about the war. And those who tell us some enthusiastic things about how great, cool and fun it was… I doubt their sincerity a little, because those front-line soldiers whom I knew were either silent or told about some simple things: how they received a letter, a can of food, or that they met a friend from school in the hospital … People had such kind of joys, they were absolutely humanly understandable. It is necessary to read about the war, say, Astafiev, who was in the war and who described this story to us with great drama and great truthfulness..
K.T .: How has the attitude towards the name of Stalin changed, what associations it is filled with in modern Russia??
L.U .: You know, it’s hard for me to say, I’ve already explained that I live in a circle of like-minded people, which myself «drew», therefore, in my circle, no revision of Stalin’s personality is taking place. And the fact that we are constantly being offered this is undoubtedly. This is radio, this is television… On May 1, the communists came out with portraits of Stalin, with red banners (and among them were quite young people), I looked at them and thought: «Oh my god, what’s in their head?!». But nothing can be done about it, here is the choice of each person, because what is in our head is what we decided to leave in our head.
K.T .: Our viewers ask how you feel about movement «Immortal Regiment»?
The subtext was different: &# 171; We DO NOT want this to happen again&# 187;
L.U. : It started out as an absolutely sincere and very understandable movement. But there was privatization, as with many in Russia. «Immortal Regiment» today the state has privatized. And now this movement has lost the sincerity and warmth that were at the very beginning, when these people first appeared with photographs of their murdered fathers and grandfathers. The state always brings a patriotic note. Traffic «Immortal Regiment» did not carry any subtext at all «We can repeat!» – the implication was different: «we NOT want it to happen again».
K.T .: What form, if I may say so, of congratulations on Victory Day seems to you the most correct and appropriate? What words do you say and what words do you want to hear on this day?
L.U .: On April 30, the last participant in the war with whom I was familiar died. Today I have no one to congratulate on this holiday. This is a holiday that was actually very distorted, because this holiday with tears in our eyes today turned into a demonstration of power, strength, some kind of superiority over other countries. And this is very bad, because the war – terrible disaster. It has passed, and, thank God, for 75 years now we have been living without a big war, but there are small wars. I really want these little wars to end as soon as possible. Because if a big war was a big crime for politicians, leaders of two countries, then small wars – also a crime of politics.
War – This is bad. This is the most important thing that we can say to ourselves on May 9th. And there is no big holiday in this, but there is a great sorrow, there is a memory of those who died, who did not live to see Victory, of those whose life was interrupted at 18, 20, 35, who did not see either their children or their wives. Here’s to remember them – the most essential part of this day.