The Sheshurino school was shut down on the very cusp of the New Year. The last remotely literate teacher had bolted, taking with him Lenka Pereverzeva, a secondary school graduate, and the funds collected for roof repairs, and a stack of study guides. Stunned by such unexpectedly shabby treatment, the school started declining before our eyes, growing faded and ugly like an abandoned wife.
A commission that could not have cared less drove in from the district center and had whatever was still fit for classroom use loaded into the light truck known affectionately as a polutorka, also hauling off two barns’-full of split firewood, a likeness of Alexander Pushkin painted in oils during the reign of Tsar Nicholas, and the bell that had summoned the students to class. The commissioners walked around the frog-green building that sprawled across the state farm’s land, rapped on its foundation and prodded at its planks, while the less trusting among them even tried to smash the flimsy wooden door frames.
“No, Pavel Ivanych,” said the boss-lady, head of the District Education Department. “You can strike me dead on the spot, but we won’t be able to write this piece of junk off, or sell it either. We’ll have to scrap it and split the land into lots.”
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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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