Two people in love in a time of war..
She didn’t sleep much longer.
When the sunbeams penetrated and came to rest at the foot of Tatiana’s bed, she pulled the sheets over her head to shut out the daylight. The door went open of the bedroom. It was her sister, Dasja.
Daria, Dasja, Dasjenka, Dasjka.
She embodied everything that was beloved to Tatiana.
But now Tatiana could have strangled her. Dasja tried to wake her up. Her strong hands shook Tatiana effectively up and down and her usual harmoniously voice hissed: “Psst! Tania! Wake up! Wake up!”
Tatiana moaned. Dasja pulled the sheet away.
Never was the age difference of seven years more obvious than now, now Tatiana wanted to sleep and Dasja…
“Stop it,” Tatiana muttered. “Can you not see that I’m sleeping? Who do you think you are? My mother?”
The door of the room became opened. Her mother! “Tania? Are you awake? Get up, immediately.”
Irina Metanova had nothing gentle. She was little, noisy and brimmed with aggressive energy. She wore a headscarf around her hair to keep it out of her face, for she had probably washed at her knees in the common bathroom. She looked dishevelled and tired on her Sunday.
“What’s the matter, mom?” Tatiana asked, without rising her head from the pillow. Dasja bent over her as if she wanted to give her a kiss. Tatiana felt for a moment loved, but before Dasja could tell something, the shrill voice of Irina sounded. “Get up fast. In a couple of minutes there comes an important announcement on the radio.”
Tatiana whispered to Dasja: “Where were you last night? You came home just a long time after dawn.”
“Can I help it,” Dasja whispered pleased, “that it became bright around midnight? I came very respectable home around midnight.” She grinned. “Everyone slept.”
“It became light around three o’clock, and at that time you weren’t home.”
Dasja kept silence for a moment. “I shall tell daddy that I was stuck across the river when the bridges became pulled up this morning around three o’clock.”
“Yes, do so. Explain to him what you were doing across the river around three o’clock in the morning.” Tatiana turned around. Dasja looked striking attractive this morning. She had recalcitrant dark brown hair and a lively round face with dark eyes.
Tatiana caught a glimpse from the tensed face of her mother. “What kind of announcement?”
Her mother pulled bedding off of the couch.
“Mom, what kind of announcement?” Tatiana repeated.
“In a couple of minutes there comes an announcement of the government. That is all I know,” mom surly said.
Tatiana became unwillingly awake. An announcement. It seldom happened that the music became interrupted by an announcement of the government. “Maybe we have invaded Finland again,” she said, rubbing her eyes.
“Quiet,” mom said.
“Or maybe the Fins have invaded our country. They want their old boundaries back since they lost territory from us last year.”
“We have not invaded Finland,” Dasja said. “Last year we wanted our boundaries back. Which we have lost in World War I. And you should stop listening to conversations of adults.”
“We have not lost our boundaries,” Tatiana said. “Comrade Lenin has voluntary surrendered. That doesn’t count.”
“Tania, we do not wage war against Finland. Come out of your bed.”
“Latvia then? Lithuania? White Russia? Have we not snapped that after the pact between Hitler and Stalin?”
“Tatiana Georgievna! Shut up!”
Apparently serious Tatiana asked: “What stays left? We already have half of Poland.”
“Tatiana Georgievna! I said that you have to shut up! Get up. Daria Georgievna, get that sister of yours out of bed.”
Dasja didn’t move.
Mom walked grumblingly out of the room.
Quickly Dasja turned around to Tatiana and whispered at a conspiring tune: “I have to tell you something!”
“Something nice?” Tatiana became immediately curious and sat up straight.
“Something great!” Dasja said. “I’m in love!”
Tatiana rolled with her eyes and let herself fall backwards again.
“Stop it!” Dasja said, jumping on top of her. “It is serious, Tania.”
“Oh, well. Did you meet him yesterday when the bridges were pulled up?” She smiled.
“Yesterday was the third time.”
Tatiana shook her head and stared at Dasja, whose happiness worked infectiously. “Could you get off of me?”
“No, I can not,” Dasja said, and tickled her. “Not before you say: ‘I’m happy, Dasja.’”
“Why would I say that?” Tatiana said laughing. “I’m not happy. Stop it! Why would I be happy? I’m not in love. Stop it, please.”
Mom came back in the room with six cups on a round tray and a silver jar with a spout which became used for the cooking of tea water. “Stop it, both of you! Did you hear me?”
“Yes, mom,” Dasja said, and she tickled Tatiana for one last time.
“Auch!” Tatiana said it as loud as possible. “Mom, I think she has broken my ribs.”
“I will break later something else. You are too old for this kind of jokes.”
Dasja stuck out her tongue at Tatiana. “Very mature,” Tatiana said. “Our momosjka doesn’t know you are only two years old.”
Dasja bent over Tatiana and whispered: “Wait until you meet him. You have never seen such a handsome boy.”
“You mean much more handsome than that Sergei you have hurt me with? Did you not say that he was so handsome?”
“Quiet!” Dasja hissed, and slapped Tatiana’s leg.
“Of course,” Tatiana grinned. “That was last week, right?”
Tatiana’s father, Georgi Vasilievitsj Metanov, came inside. A little man in his forty’s, with a bunch of knotty black hair, which became pepper-and-salt colourful. Dasja had her curly hair from her father. He walked past the bed and said: “Tatiana, it’s twelve o’clock. Get up. Otherwise there will be trouble. I want you to get dressed in two minutes.”
“That is not difficult,” Tatiana answered, who jumped up the bed and showed the others that she still wore her blouse and skirt from the last day. Dasja and mom shook their heads; mom with an almost unnoticeable smile.
Dad turned away and looked at the window. “What should we do with her, Irina?”
Nothing, Tatiana thought, nothing as long as dad looks the other way.
“I should marry,” Dasja said, who still sat on the bed. “Then I finally can get a room of my own to dress in it.”
“You have got to be kidding,” Tatiana said. “You should just sleep here with your husband. Me, you, he, all in one bed, with Pasja at our feet. Romantic, isn’t it?”
“Do not marry, Dasjenka,” mom said absent-minded. “Just for one time Tatiana is right. We have no space for him.”
Her father said nothing and turned on the radio.
In their long, small room stood a bed on which Tatiana and Dasja slept, a couch on which mom and dad slept, and a low, metal camp-bed on which Tatian’s twin brother, Pasja, slept. It stood at the foot of the bed, so Pasja called himself their little doormat.
Tatiana’s grandparents, Baboesjka and Deda, lived in the adjoining room, which was bounded by a short corridor with their room. Dasja slept sometimes, if she came home late and didn’t want to interrupt her parents, on the couch in the corridor, to get no trouble the next day.
“Where is Pasja?” Tatiana asked.
“He is eating breakfast,” mom answered. She couldn’t find rest. While dad sat deadly quiet on the old couch, mom walked busily around him, picked up empty cigarette packets, put books correct on the shelf and dusted with her hand the small table. Tatiana stayed standing on the bed. Dasja was still sitting.
The Metanovs were lucky – they had two rooms and a separate part of the common corridor. Six years ago they had made a door to separate the end of the corridor. It was almost like they had their own apartment. The Iglenko’s slept with six in one big room further up in the corridor – at the corridor. That was bad luck.
The sun shone through the fluttering white curtains inside.
Soon Pasja came inside with Deda and Baboesjka. Despite the fact that he was Tatiana’s twin brother, he didn’t look anything like her. He was a thick-set, dark-haired boy, a smaller version of his father. He nodded carelessly at Tatiana and muttered: “Nice hair.”
Tatiana stuck out her tongue. She had not yet brushed it and pinned up.
Pasja sat down on his camp-bed and Baboesjka settled down next to him. Because she was the tallest of the Metanovs, the whole family listened to her opinion, except in moral issues, then they seek advice by Deda. Baboesjka was impressed, sensible and had silver-grey hair. Deda was modest and friendly and had dark hair. He sat next to dad on the couch and muttered: “It is something very important, son.”
Dad nodded anxiously.
Mom was still cleaning, anxiously.
The radio began to make a series of clicking noises. It was 12.30, 22 June 1941.
“Tania, sit down,” dad commanded his daughter. “It begins. Irina, you too. Sit down.”
Comrade Vyacheslav Molotov, Josef Stalins minister of Foreign Business, began:
Men and women, citizens of the Soviet Union – the soviet-government and her leader, comrade Stalin, have given me the order to make the following announcement. At four o’clock this morning German troops have, without a declaration of war and without any demands to the Soviet Union, surprised our country, crossed our boundary at many places and have performed bombardments at Shitomir, Kieff, Sebastopol, Kaunas and other cities. This attack is undertook despite the fact that there has been a closed non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Germany, a pact which from the conditions by the Soviet Union has been scrupulously lived up to. We have been attacked, even though the German government has not complained that the USSR did not keep her commitments during the pact…
The government makes an appeal to you, men and women citizens of the Soviet Union, to range closer on the side of the glorious Bolshevik party, the soviet government and our great leader, comrade Stalin. We fight for a fair case. The enemy will be shattered. To us the victory.