May 01, 2005

The Bryansk Forest Sternly Stirred

Memories of a Partisan Past

Just before the onset of the Second World War, my 83-year-old neighbor Olga Ivanovna had a dream. The wooden chest in her entryway stood empty with the lid open. Clothes and other belongings were strewn out over the floor. She awoke and prodded her husband, Pavel, telling him to go look. He came back and said all was well. She dreamed it again. Waking up, she lit a candle and went to check for herself. Everything was in its place. The next day she asked one of the elder women in the village about the dream. The woman said the dream meant Olga Ivanovna would become a widow. Olga Ivanovna, then 20 and pregnant with her second child, tried to put it out of her head.

On June 22, 1941, Olga Ivanovna, eight months pregnant, was cleaning out the grain mill in the field with some other women, when a man from the village of Chukhrai shouted to them to hurry back. All the villagers gathered in front of the store, where the district policeman from Suzemka, a town in the southern Bryansk Province, awaited them.

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