Elise Andrew, Grade 12, Stella Maris College
The Church clock struck three, echoing through Leningrad like a whistle. Faina checked her watch and winced. She would have to hurry to make it back in time for dinner. Her father’s work comrades were coming over so there was much commotion. Too much commotion to be able to think clearly and Faina liked to think. Her Russian teacher often told the class that in order to form valid thoughts one needs to do much thinking. So, Faina tried to do her best to do so.
She turned left down the alley, towards the tower. The tower was her thinking place. As she made her way along the cobblestone alley, Faina glanced at the shop windows. The air was full of the delicious scents of food. Faina walked past a man selling syrniki and almost stopped. Her mother had made her those little fried pancakes since she was little. She could not stop though as her mother would be furious if she came home with a full stomach. Faina continued down the path.
She could see the tower now, rising up over the other buildings. Once there, she stopped to take in the sight. Red spirals swirled all the way to the top of the tower, which was decorated with a golden turret. The metal stairs were a beautiful copper colour. Hardly anyone ever visited the tower, which is what made it such a great thinking place. However this time, Faina could see that she was not alone.
As she climbed the stairs, Faina heard a couple ascending in front of her, just out of sight around the tower bend. The woman seemed distressed. “What do I do Edik? What can we do?” “Shh,” a male voice soothed. “Everything will be fine Aleya.” Aleya sobbed. “My family… my family are gone. My cousins in Lithuania stolen in the night, taken to the camps. My family is going to die.” Aleya’s last words were muffled. “They are strong, they will get through this.”
Faina felt the hurt in the couples’ voices. She couldn’t possibly imagine what she would do if her family was taken away. “They’ll take me away next Edik.” “I would never let that happen,” Edik said firmly. Aleya sniffled. “How can he do this? That monster!” Faina became angry. Who was doing this to these poor people? “I never want to hear the name Stalin again,” Edik spat. Faina froze. Stalin? No, these people had it wrong. Stalin would never hurt anyone. Faina’s dad worked for him. He would never… Faina was furious. Who did these people think they were? She ran down the stairs she had climbed. Once outside, she kept running through the alley she had passed across earlier. That woman sounded scared. Scared of Joseph Stalin. She has it wrong, she must. There was nothing for Aleya to be scared about. There was nothing for Faina herself to be scared about. There was absolutely nothing to be scared of, right?