When I was a kid, I spent 4 or 5 summers in a row in a small village near a Ukrainian town of Korosten’. My grandfather and I would get on a train or a bus from my hometown of Gomel and take a 6-hour trip to his friend’s farm. Pavel and Galina (my grandfather’s friends) had a small apple orchard and raised goats and rabbits. To a kid a place like that was a paradise. I spent my days swimming in the river, hiking, roasting potatoes on a bonfire and goofing off with local village kids. I never wondered who Pavel and Galina really were and how they know my grandfather.
This past weekend my mom asked me put together a book of old photographs as a present for my grandmother. As we were going through a pile of old photographs, I came across the photograph below:
In the back, my grandfather is on the left and my grandmother is right next to him. In the front row, the two people sitting down are Pavel and Galina.
As we started talking about people in this photograph, I asked my mom how my grandfather met Pavel and Galina. As it turned out, like with most of my grandfather’s friends, he met Pavel in Vorkuta GULAG. Unlike his other friends, Pavel was not an inmate – as it turned out he was a guard at Vorkuta Mine #7 labor camp. He was one of the good guys and from what my grandmother and my mom told me he saved quite a few lives.
It’s been almost 10 years since Pavel passed away; Galina passed away 2 years ago. I was absolutely shocked and amazed that I had known these people since childhood and had no idea about their relationship with my grandfather.
Who knows what else I find out in the next few days…