Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Baba One's Divorce: Part One

Story #2 . . Preamble
I'd like to unpack some of the family baggage I had introduced  in A Visit to the Laundromat. The stories are adaptations of stuff I had written years ago in grad school. All the details - though some are fictionalized - are based on accounts from my (happily married!) parents and grandmothers. Names have been changed to maintain anonymity.

Photo: Skyscraper City

Kharkov, Ukraine

The day Bronka married David, she decided she would eventually divorce him. It was 1949 and she was 29. She married him to get her mother off her back. All day long her skull would echo with the sound of: When are you getting married? When are you getting married? Noo? Why aren't you married yet?

Bronka's mother threw all sorts of men at her. But Bronka had her heart set on Peter Nistratov. Nistratov was a captain in the army division where Bronka practiced medicine. Since he was not Jewish, he and Bronka had to keep their romance a secret. Bronka and Nistratov always sat together at division events and passed notes. On one such not Nistratov wrote: "Bronislava Aronovna, Saturday night is the New Years Gala. There I will await you!"

Bronka's mother was terribly worried that she might marry a Russian. "You'll marry a Russian over my dead body," she told Bronka. Bronka's mother was always very religious. Before the war Bronka's father had also been very religious. He observed all teh traditions and the family kept a kosher kitchen. On Passover there was always only matzoh. During the war, Bronka, her parents, and her sisters, Rosa and Rita, fled. When they arrived in Bashkeria, a small republic near Siberia, there were corpses everywhere. Rosa gave birth prematurely from the fright she got when she stepped on a corpse in the stairs of their apartment building. That night Bronka's father collected the family and announced that he no longer believed in God. He stopped being religious. 

Nistratov looked so handsome at the gala. he was decorated in full army regalia and was wearing his boots with spurs. But Bronka did not arrive at the gala alone. Yosef, a cousin's husband's brother, was a good Jewish boy and Bronka's mother had forced Bronka to take this Yosef to the gala. At the gala, Nistratov got drunk and pushed Yosef and Bronka around. He would not let Bronka dance. It would be the last time she and Nistratov ever spoke. As for this Yosia: he had absolutely no need for her, nor she for him. 

David was another one of Bronka's mother's finds. He was 8 years older than Bronka. They went out a few times. She felt nothing. Shortly after they had met, he ran to her and said, "Bronka! My mother is ill. Please comewith me to see her." On her deathbed, David's mother made him promise to marry Bronka. Bronka was not consulted. The next day, Bronka's good shoes sunk into mud at the funeral. Bronka watched three otehr pairs of shoes sinking as well: her mother's, David's and his father, Anchel's. They were the only four people there. No procession, nothing, just the four of them. 

Anchel and David moved in wit Bronka's family, and Bronka's mother changed her whining to: "A single man is living in the same house wit a young girls. People will talk. You have to marry." What the heck, Bronka thought. I'll marry him, He doesn't drink , he doesn't smoke, he's an engineer, this and that. How bad could it be? Physically he was ok. bald, but normal. 

To be continued . . . 

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