Let’s do some work, Danechka!
Here you are, eat up!
Volodya, pour it out for them.
The little halt in the taiga called Tikhonkaya no longer exists.
In its place stands the first-rate station of the city of Birobidzhan,
the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Republic.
Settlers are coming here from around the world.
Hello, who have I got through to?
I dialled 19, so how come I get 20.
This is Rak speaking.
I need to talk to the commanding officer.
Your lads are working at my place.
This is Rak speaking, the farmer.
Your lads are working in my field under contract.
This is Rak, I need to talk.
Rak! Rak! It’s my name. [Rak means “crab, crayfish”]
Victor Timofeyevich, it’s Rak here.
Masha, have you read you horoscope for this week?
No, I haven’t had time.
You may have problems with business partners.
I’m not a businessman, am I.
You’re not planning on travelling anywhere?
Not beyond Waldheim.
You should make preparations.
Where am I going? To the vegetable plot.
When I am feeding the stove,
I remember the letters I wrote to you.
Why did we burn them?
I feel very sorry about it. It would be interesting to read them now.
That was 46 years ago.
We wrote to each other for about a year.
47 years, then.
That’s history already.
Do you remember everything?
It would be interesting for the children and grandchildren to read now.
Our grandchildren especially would be interested in those letters.
Of course I remember everything.
You came here in January on leave.
You should have come for the New Year,
but they didn’t let you go.
It was for the New Year that I came.
No, I arrived too late to see in the New Year here.
There was some sort of delay on the way.
You promised to come for the New Year,
and showed yourself to me only after it.
I went straight to see you at work.
Yes, you came there and fell asleep,
while you were waiting for me. Right there in the chair.
A fine fiancé.
I missed lunch because of you,
keeping watch in case someone stole you.
While I was asleep?
Don’t say you’ve forgotten.
No, I haven’t forgotten.
I hadn’t slept for days on end.
I remember when you and Liova came round.
Those great boots going thump, thump, thump.
The door opens. “May we?”
Yes, I was a model soldier.
We were living with the Velikovskys then.
Three of you girls living together
Liova and I brought a bottle of vodka
and we hardly got any,
you drank it all.
Of course, we wanted some too.
Three young, healthy girls.
We were healthy, not sick.
We wanted a drink too.
How did you and Fimka end up in the same army unit?
There were three of us Jews ended up in one unit, two Fimkas and me.
Things were fine. We got on all right.
They didn’t give you trouble?
Why should they give us trouble?
Back then things were easier; the times were different.
We didn’t have problems. It didn’t matter whether you were Jewish.
The important thing was to do your duty well.
Are you going to be much longer?
I’ll just put on a bit more wood.
Was it interesting to serve in the army?
For someone with seven classes of schooling I did quite well.
Yes, Liona was wrong to leave.
he shouldn’t have gone.
Now you’ve got a big farm,
he’d be a good assistant.
Young Yegor’s growing up.
He’d be all right here too.
Maybe he told you
exactly why he left?
He wants to take a look at Israel.
He wasn’t planning to stay long.
That’s what he told me.
Things are hard for them at the moment, of course,
but they don’t intend to come back here.
That’s what they told me.
They were among the first to leave.
Grandpa, say whose idea it was to build all this.
For the 50th anniversary of the collective farm
they wanted to give its workers something.
Does anybody build anything nowadays?
There’s probably more money in tearing things down than in building.
Who went to this sports hall?
Your father went,
although he was very busy.
He drove a milk tanker.
Here he lifted weights.
Grandpa, can I ask you,
were you a party member?
Have you still got your membership card?
I was a member of the Communist Party for 33 years.
Do you keep it safe?
Yes, it’s a memento, a reminder that I was a Communist.
You think they might come back to power?
I hope not.
Masha, do you hear me?
How many times have I told you to get rid of that cross?
It’s not a cross, it’s a crucifix.
I don’t think something like that should be in a Jewish home.
And what was Jesus?
What do you mean “what”?
And who crucified him?
It doesn’t matter who crucified him.
He was a Jew and that’s why he’s hanging here.
Why should he be hanging in a Jewish home?
Who should we hang there then?
A Jewish god.
Who’s that? David?
All right, I’ll keep that in mind.
We should hang up a Star of David.
Now it has become much easier to live and work.
In 1931 the Waldheim collective farm
got its first two tractors.
They were called Clintac… Clitor… Clinton…
I can’t remember.
Anyway, the first two tractors arrived.
These are photos of the tractors.
Somebody needed to become the tractor driver.
Nobody knew anything about machinery.
It was decided to offer the job to the former stableboy Yekhil Rak.
Here he is in this photo wearing a hat with ear-flaps.
When the settlers first arrived,
people decided to set up a collective farm.
That same year the first Jewish village soviet was organized.
Greetings, dear son,
I finally decided to write you a letter.
You can’t say everything on the phone.
It must be hot already there in Israel.
Spring’s late arriving here this year.
We still haven’t started sowing.
We’re waiting for good weather.
We’ve sent Yeltsin for meat.
Remember, we had a boar with that name.
We felt a bit sorry.
Your Mum and I miss him.
Mum is still working at the museum.
My health’s holding up,
But I get tired by evening.
Everything’s OK in the village
The collective farm has gone bust.
It was declared bankrupt as of 1 January.
Everything has been sold off already.
Only the name remains.
We recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of our school.
I was invited as one of the alumni.
There was no-one else from my class.
As you know, many of them are dead already.
In the run-up to the May Day holiday I was awarded the title of
“Honorary Citizen of the Jewish Autonomous Region”
I received congratulations from the government.
That seems to be all our news.
There he is.
Come on, Chaim, over here.
He doesn’t want to.
His side’s wet for some reason.
There. Eat something and calm down.
What shall we call the bull-calf, Natalya?
I don’t know.
What shall we call you, eh? Have we had any little Chubaises yet?
Are you sure?
No, I tell a lie, we have.
Here’s some gloves for you.
Come on, give me a hand.
Can you reach?
Yes, I can.
What are you after? The can?
Put these gloves on.
There’s no need.
Let me open it.
I’ll give you the small brush and take the big one myself.
You need to be taught everything.
Open the lid. Give me the keys.
You remember what father said before he died,
looking at Sveta: my little dark one, my beauty.
Of course I remember.
You don’t forget that sort of thing.
Well, shall we go and see Grandpa?
He never wore gloves.
You’re the same as him, not liking gloves,
and your grandchildren don’t like gloves either.
Take after their grandfather.
And their great-grandfather.
He never punished me
but he kept an eye on how I was doing at school.
Did he check your homework?
How could he? He was illiterate, remember.
But he read the Jewish papers in Yiddish.
He could have lived for many more years
That was his fate, see.
Yes, fate… And his health was OK.
He was grieving.
He was grieving very deeply…
Grief is a terrible thing.
Time’s going on.
Your grandchildren don’t want to live here, they left.
The land that he cleared and ploughed, that he planted with grain.
And he returned to it so soon.
So terribly soon.
Our life has changed.
We dreamt of being real people.
We dreamt of earning our own food and drink.
We shall be collective farm workers and tend our fields.
Do not be afraid of work.
All that we earn will be ours.
If we do not work we shall have nothing.
We shall eat, drink and work together.
Even argue sometimes.
My son has been in the army ten years now.
He’s doing all right there.
He writes me nice letters and I understand him.
Jews! What did we have before?
How much of our blood was shed?
Our life was terrible.
You remember that.
We went to the synagogue, prayed,
went home and were happy.
Today I can travel wherever I like.
We are not afraid of anyone.
We have the same rights as everyone else.
Nobody prevents us from living the way we want.
We send our greetings to all collective farm workers!
Forward, together with everyone.
Sound L. Lerner