1 - Lela & Oleg

So much had been destroyed already, what is one man
destroyed by a system which had smothered so many dreams,
a destroyed man, she said, such exhilaration she had with his destruction
so much anger she had with the society that destroys so casually,
so much anger she had at this society which disdained her,
which offered her so little
so she talked about her husband’s father
who had been a big man, a captain of a great ship
but not a communist not one to kowtow to the communists
and so they destroyed him
and now he lives his life in a hut
in a small village with no running water
in a village with nothing
in a hut with nothing
a life with nothing
in a landscape that has been destroyed
a destroyed man she repeated
in anger in defiance in disdain.

They would not destroy her she implied
this child of the Soviet Union
raised to believe in the greatness of the Soviet System
raised to believe in the goodness of the Soviet System
raised to ignore the stagnation that surrounded her
and the corruption that wanted to swallow her
and now she hoped that if she studied the science
of the Market Economy, the magic of Marketing
she would find a place for herself in the New Soviet System
and in time buy back the two acres the communists
took from her grandfather (and his three cows)
but on this day she wanted to show off the achievements
of the Soviet Union gloriously displayed in an Exhibition Park
the promises of Soviet success glowing in her face
but it was not how she had remembered it
it was in decline and collapse like everything else
(or perhaps her eyes could now see more clearly)
the great slogans of Soviet supremacy ringing hollow
with letters and words gone missing
the profile of the great Lenin gone missing
only its shadow on the building remained
and the residue of rusted bolts that once
secured Lenin to the marble monument,
now just a crumbling mausoleum
and I took her picture,
her face somewhat sad somewhat bemused,
standing under these empty dreams…

Most of the exhibition spaces were locked or bolted or just empty
the only thing that was not locked or bolted or empty
was a golden, grandiose fountain (which would have appeared
over blown even at Versailles) with its fifteen fantastical
statues representing the fifteen Soviet Republics
water erratically gushing out of ugly open mouthes.
We needed refreshment, we retreated to a cafeteria
inside a crowded cavernous room crammed with people
who had also given up on Soviet grandeur.
We sat at a tiny table while her husband
stood in lines for food and drink, he stood in three separate
lines, one to make his choice from the limited selection
another to pay, and a third to pick up the sad selection
meanwhile she talked of her destroyed
and her dreams.

2 -Irena & Boris

He was bemused, shocked, disturbed, confused when his wife kicked him out of their bed and he had to sleep on the floor
she a journalist, he a professor of management,
both good communists when Communism was collapsing
arguing whether private property should be permitted,
he slightly in favor she adamantly opposed
and for the first time in their married life
they slept separately, she lost and lonely in their bed
surrounded by their books covering the walls of their tiny bedroom, he on the floor of the other tiny room
tucked between the couch and a bookcase,
listening to her, listening for her to unlock the door,
waiting for her to unlock the door which she never did,
listening to her lying quietly a few feet away,
thinking about their life together,
so many years together, both working
in their different fields to fulfill the promise
of communism, two idealistic souls
believing in communism, working to make it whole
wondering why their leaders were always so crude
and corrupt, petty and power hungry, showing no idealism
and now they wanted to allow private property—
what kind of a communism would that be?

He had sacrificed so much for the communist
ideal, first his father snatched from the family,
swallowed up by Stalin's gulag, lost forever,
destroyed, an enemy of the people, and his childhood
forever tarred as a son of a betrayer
damned by his teachers
damned by his classmates
as someone not to be trusted
yet he had trusted,
trusted his teachers,
trusted Stalin,
trusted in the goodness of communism
and eventually his trust had been rewarded,
and allowed to continue his education, even
allowed to teach the next generation of communist
leaders and now his wife accuses him of betraying
her trust, betraying their life together—

when he told me this, looking so sad,
I pictured his wife an ogre, a battle axe,
I pictured her with a short stocky body, no neck,
short crudely cut grey hair, no lipstick, hard beady eyes
a hard brittle brute who could kill without compassion
and wondered how this gentle man could still be in love
with such a woman, who had left that morning without
saying a word to visit a provincial town to interview
the boy who had written to her newspaper,
(without revealing his name)
that he did not believe in Lenin,
nor Gorbachov,
nor any other communist leader,
nor in communism,
nor in anything else
and she wanted to find out who this person was
and why he would say such terrible things,
and if she did not find that boy
she did find many, many who said the same thing
the same terrible things
and she was shocked,
more than shocked, she was shaken,
her whole world shifted
and she became disorientated
she who had grown up with nothing
when there was only one pretty dress
in the whole building, and all the young girls shared
that one dress, a score of girls sharing one red dress
until that one dress just faded away
but they had all believed
believed in sacrifice
believed in the goodness of communism
believed in the goodness of their leaders
believed in the future
believed that communism would create
a good and just life for everyone
and now the next generation
the generation she had sacrificed for
believes in none of that
believes in nothing—

How can you live and not believe?
she asked, her face filled
with passion and puzzlement
those poor children, with nothing
to believe in, nothing
to live for.
How can they live that way?
she asked, her bright blue eyes
now moist and veiled
this beautiful woman
whose world is destroyed.

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Copyright 2017© by Peter D. Goodwin