May 01, 2023

Taking Names and Telling Tales

Taking Names and Telling Tales

The little village of Klyuchi settled on the shores of the Pustoshka River in the late nineteenth century. The soil wasn’t the richest in those parts, but the vegetable plots never failed, bringing forth potatoes, turnips, carrots, and flax like clockwork, and the cows had plenty of pasture in the flood-meadows alongside the river. The womenfolk bore children, spun, milked the cows, churned butter, and wove unusually lovely striped floor mats that were made nowhere else. The menfolk went to the nearest town for seasonal work – hard workers they were and skilled in the carpenter’s craft. So the village lived on and knew no hardship.

The revolution and the war wiped out almost all the men, and the collective farm destroyed the private farming. In the late twentieth century, the collective farm fell apart too, laying bare more misfortune and wrongdoing than even the revolution had, because people were now left without even the paltry, albeit regular, wages they’d had before. Only thirty-six homes still stood in Klyuchi, compared to four hundred at the start of the last century.

The huts were no less well made than they’d ever been, crafted from local larch-wood, but time had shown no mercy to them either. They went visibly lopsided, and the roofs decayed, and the glass cracked in the windows, which had gone all askew too, so they looked more like diamonds than rectangles.

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