The Meek

The Meek

If the time comes when you can tell the truth out loud, it will be only because no one will be interested in it anymore, everyone will have forgotten everything and Yuchbunar will no longer exist. But if one day someone steps forward to tell honestly about those things, then his story is going to be contradictory and truncated because he will have to speak with many voices that say different things and sound different: there are no same two voices, no two moments that are the same, especially on days like those, when it often seemed to us that every morning life began anew and we still had to learn how to walk, how to eat and talk. And to maintain his honesty, this story will have to twist and turn, run through the dusty streets and jump on the roofs, as we did, and sometimes even turn against himself. Even if the story is to be endowed with a hundred pairs of eyes – a nimble, monstrous spider that has emerged from ancient nightmares – many things will still be guessed, because who knows how it was. Some things we saw with our own eyes, others we learned by whispering at the corners, and others we guessed, understood, invented – call it as you will. One way or another, you wake up one morning and the world is different because during the night someone changed it just before your nose. And here, you want to participate: maybe, of course, you are just a right boy for us; we will find you a role. Then you will have time to forget. But there, in the core of the past, there will always be some beginning: a sudden jump from the bed and someone’s voice, which indignantly first hits you in the ear: the people have taken power, and you are asleep!

So, everything inexorably returns to that September morning: you overslept like never before, and the sun was already shining outside. Sunbeams in your window; sunbeams rattled like pebbles in your window. Lied down in the bed, the young man realized that they were indeed pebbles. This was the way of inviting of the Yuchbunar’s boys and girls for a meeting; that’s what Lilyana called him before he disappeared: a handful of pebbles on the glass. He rubbed his eyes, got up, leaned out the small window, and gasped. It was Lilyana, it really was Lilyana!

Startled by excitement, Emil Strezov coughed and a wheeze tore his chest; amid the clear joy in his mouth, still sleepy, jumped the tenacious sputum of fear – as always, as every time he felt that tickle in his chest and the first hint of contraction of the abdominal muscles. Cough, Emil Strezov, cough – you can do that, as all your family can! After all, tuberculosis took your little sister, and then your mother, there, in the miserable yellow-gray town in the gorge. Cough, Emil Strezov. The old alarm clock ticked rhythmically, outside – the linden trees and below them the yellow ghost; and the ticking of the alarm clock hits into your brain like a yellow wasp’s sting. But today he woke up before the fear, today the sun, and a handful of stones hit the glass, and it was Lilyana after all these months of feverish absence, and he was awake. This is how Lilyana – at least that was her name, before going in hideout – left her night residence and reappeared in daylight before Emil Strezov. She did not want to say where she was in those months when he and Kosta silently wondered if they would see her again, or if she had long since fallen apart: a head cut off by the gendarmerie for 50,000 levs; a leg protruding like a bad joke into the crater made of some bomb.

Lilyana came; but she hurriedly got out of their arms and almost didn’t even smile, but she rejected any questions about where she was and whether she was feeling well, angrily waving her tanned hand. There was no time for sentiments: the people, she said it for the third time, took the power, and finally explained in two words what it meant. During the night, everyone went down to Sofia … How come, everyone – well, the tank brigade, the partisans … W-W-What kind of tank brigade was it, Lile?! Ugh, they came on our side, you fool. They took over the ministries, the telephone company, the police disappeared, they were gone, they were all hiding in a mouse hole, the regents were arrested … Well, what about the little king, Emil Strezov asked. The little king, Lilyana said, was playing with the lead soldiers in the room. Did you saw him, Kosta asked, and Lilyana became very angry, she was not interested in any king, there would be no more kings or lead soldiers. But don’t you understand, the bourgeoisie has treated you in such a way that instead of brains you have cottage cheese. Kosta was offended, saying that it was not appropriate for a c-c-communist to speak like that and that they would always be where the people were. If so, said Lilyana, come with me.

On Saturday morning, Yuchbunar had not yet learned that the people had taken power; but that something was wrong, the neighborhood dogs smelled. One of them followed with curiosity the three young people, who hurried along the suddenly deafened tram line. Lilyana was walking in the middle, holding Emil Strezov and Kosta under their arms, almost dragging them forward. This girl was strong, ticking the neighborhood behind the yellowish curtains. Her eyes darted to them, but they didn’t feel that, not yet. Wow, w-w-where are we going, Lile? Kosta was startled when he saw the neighborhood police building across the street, took the girl’s hand, and looked at her pleadingly. Why he could not explain what was happening, as he had carefully explained before about Marx and the class struggle, about the origin of the family, about the proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky?

But Lilyana just pointed towards the police station and they saw that the building had changed overnight. A red flag fluttered from the balcony on the second floor, and in front of the entrance, unshaven men in rough pants and caps with headbands walked around the entrance, pulling on their holsters and smoking. The first thing, Lilyana said, was to organize a people’s militia to stop any attempts of counter-revolution. And, clear enough, to keep order. I told you the guards hid in a mouse hole. But, she added and waved her finger menacingly, wherever they hid, we would get them out. And can we enlist in the militia, Kosta asked. Certainly, she replied, not only can you, but you have to. You are a remsist. And she led them to the entrance of the police station. And many people in the neighborhood already suspected that Lilyana was a member of the rems – that’s haw they called it, otherwise, it was officially the Workers’ Youth Union, although what could officially be in it, if the government banned it ten years ago, when the military staged a coup on May 19.

Forbidden or not, the rems functioned, and many boys and girls in Yuchbunar were known to be in it. Before the war, and after that but before the Germans invaded Russia, the Remssists did nothing special. They organized gatherings, parties, played guitars and accordions and the young people went there with pleasure. Gradually, they took over the community centers, gave various talks there, but were careful not to talk about politics in front of everyone, only from time to time they made a vicious joke against the priests. And they fought with the legionnaires.

The legionnaires also organized rallies, gave speeches, talked about patriotism and education and the ancient moral virtues of the Bulgarians, dreamed of unity in the name of the national ideal, denied the parties, but more than the parties hated the remsists. So sometimes the meeting of these or those ended with some cracked head, and the guards minded their own business, and on this point, but only on it, we had same opinion with the guards. In any case, after Hitler attacked Stalin, the remsists simply disappeared. One in ten young people disappeared from every tenth house. People from Yuchbunar learned a new word: hideout. Most of them were still not very aware of what these inspired children, who they remembered by their hurried gait and dangerous gleam in their eyes were doing in their hideout.


Translated from Bulgarian by Aneta Paunovska

The translation of this book was facilitate by a creative residency at the Sofia Literature and Translation House of Next Page Foundation, supported by Translation in Motion Project, funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union and Traduki.
AuthorAngel Igov
Translated byAna Barr David
2021-11-10T17:18:40+00:00 March 31st, 2021|Categories: Prose, Literature, Blesok no. 136|0 Comments