Saturday, May 05, 2007

A simple funeral

Walking down the long, funneling dirt road that marks the border between Vinnoye and open space, something very peticular and equally peculiar catches my eye. It is a color usually reserved for not so simple places, yet fused into a shape ubiquitious with those who have been humbled by the land. The color stands out like the blood of a calf torn apart by wolves that I came across in the snow of the previous winter. Much like the calf and much like this village, it simultaneously intrigues and horrifies me. I quicken my pace, weaving around some young children playing with the now yellowed bones leftover from a previous meal, their faces covered with a dark grey soot. "Zdrastvootie Mr. Robinson!". A step up from the "Kak Sam"'s of Avat I think.
I look up and at once notice that a large crowd has gathered in front of a house, which from the distance I'm at seems to be parellel to mine. They are standing in a semicircle, wrapped around the back of a blue rusted truck usually dedicated to transporting hay and grain. Their faces are somber, long and gaunt. Well, I think, their faces are always somber, long and gaunt. I turn my eyes to a recognizable face smoking "Medeo" cigarettes with fingers already caked with dirt from a half days work. He always smokes Medeo cigarettes and the dirt on his fingernails seems as permanent as the row of smokestacks that line the horizon. I hear a faint distinguishable sound and as I turn to look at what is within the semicircle of villagers I notice an older woman crying as two men prop up a wooden coffin into the back of the truck. A man turns on the engine and the truck slowly begins moving at an equal pace with the now growing crowd. A sense of unity pervades the chalky air as the crowd follows the grieving woman who follows the truck which follows the funneling dirt road, around a bend and towards the westernmost of three semicircular hills protruding from the earth.
Lying on the far side of "kruglia" or the aptly named "round" hill is a makeshift graveyard, where in its 150 year history the men and woman of Vinnoye have been returned to the same earth they spent their lives toiling. A hastily constructed stone fence protects the graveyard from wandering cattle. I join the end of the crowd and ask the man with the recognizable face "shto sloochilas", what happened? "Eta stari dyadooshka, on oomel. Oh bil voseemdesiate chitiri goad." It's an old grandfather who died. He was 84 years old. "Tui znal? On bil tvoi sosiedi". Did you know? He was your nieghbour. The truck continues up towards kruglia, the outline of a scarlet cross permeating the white birch wood of the propped coffin. "On bil harasho parin" says another familiar face who overheard my previous question. He was a good man.