Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Baba Daria

I hate to interrupt the flow of things but we had a death here in our house two days ago and we are going to the funeral today. If you read my piece on Chernobyl memories, the last person who speaks is Daria, the one whose husband’s army group were on the lake right next to Chernobyl just died. Baba Daria was a terrific lady whose death came so suddenly that it has everybody here in a state of shock. It really was only a week ago that she was out on the bench in front of our garden talking with the others. Always strong and optimistic there was no sign that anything was wrong. And then, as the story is being told, she said one day that she felt ill and called the hospital. When they examined her they said she had cancer and asked her to stay for more tests. She checked into the hospital and almost immediately fell into some horrible state and was transferred to intensive care and died within three days of being there. It was just a sudden and complete collapse. The doctors claimed it was the cancer and that there are two sorts of cancer, the one which is slow moving and another which comes on like lightening. None of us have ever heard of anything like this but this is the story.

Daria was a retired programmer, and original programmer from the time of the big, tape reel IBM machines. She worked in the office of statistics and was considered to be an extremely intelligent woman. I remember her as being the one babushka we have who always spoke to me in a serious fashion. This is not to say that she was without humor, it was simply that where some of the others tended to speak past me, Baba Daria always took whatever issue we spoke of seriously.

The complexion of our house has now really changed. This is the third death in the last fourteen months and with Tatyana’s mother having moved to another flat, almost all of the original old folk who were here when I came are gone.

Daria though laughed one time when I called her an original. She told me that in fact she was a newcomer in our apartment because she had only been there 27 years. The others have been there 56 years and apparently had never let her forget that she was a junior member of the club.

She had three great grapevines growing in her garden that, up until this year, had been creeping up the southwest wall of our house. When the city painted it though they made her take them down and would not let her put them back. Doma pravlenye of course. She sold them or gave them to some guy who came on a motorcycle with a sidecar to carry them away.

And when Tatyanas father died, Daria was the first one to come and the last to leave and at times cried harder than Tatyana’s mother at Victor’s death. In fact she was so devastated by Victor Ivanovich’s death that I got to thinking that there might have been something between them, though Tatyana dismisses this idea and explains that it was only that they worked together for a couple of years after Grandpa went to pension.

I wish I had a picture to put here but I don’t. I remember taking one of her but I can't find it now. She had long hair which she wore in a braid and occasionally, when she would have it down and you would look at her, she smiled with a coy, girlish smile that you should see it. She liked and admired a hard work ethic and people who adhered to it but at the same time was one who made people happy to be around her. In the last year, she had invited three female students to live with her in her flat to help offset her pension. The girls were nice but for their endless time on the corridor stairs smoking which had the whole house reeking of cigarette smoke. Daria handled questions about this with a shrug and a glance to the heavens. She herself never smoked a cigarette in her life.

I’ll get back on track with the current story line but I thought I should say a few words. She was a nice lady and a friend and our world is less of a place in her absence. Rest in peace.