::: Sometime in July or August 1983 :::

I’m standing next to my father, on his right side, my mother at his other side. I’m holding my dad’s hand, I am nine years old and very confused.

People are whispering in a language that I don’t understand. We are in Moscow, on the Red Square, and Anatol, our interpreter is helping us out linguistically. I don’t really know what we’re about to do, there is this really long line of people waiting in front of us, but my parents have been going on about this for days. All I can sense is that this is really important to them.

But then I can hardly understand what this entire trip was about. It’s supposed to be our summer vacation, my first journey on a plane ever (aeroflot). Two hours, probably more, from Berlin to Moscow, and after that, the Crimean.

I keep turning around to look at the Kremlin behind us, because the Kremlin wasn’t as scary, it was a fun building with forms and color and not a block of cold stone like the one we were waiting in front of. My sister is at my mother’s left, holding her hand, although you can tell she’d prefer to run around and not stand still. She is five years old.

My parents are talking to Anatol the entire time, every once in a while telling me and my sister to behave when we would act up, like kids do. They are talking about politics, as usual. So I escape into daydreaming. I was always very much into daydreaming. My vivid imagination and me, we were (and still are) always inventing the most interesting adventures.

The line of people in front of us is moving slowly and it seems like forever until we get to the entrance of the building. Everybody is moving in slow motion, I am holding on to my father’s hand very firmly now, everything seems so weird and I get scared, because I still don’t understand what all this is about. The thing is, since I’m so little, I can’t really see what’s going on, everyone around me is so much taller. I think my sister and me, we’re the only children amongst all these people.

The moment I finally understand everything is when I suddenly see the huge glass container in front of me. There’s a man lying in there, it looks as if he’s sleeping, but something tells me this can’t be, because people sleep in beds. And they don’t wear suits when they sleep, but pyjamas. Plus, the face of the man looks familiar. It’s a face I have already seen a million times. The face of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov a.k.a. Lenin.

And all of a sudden, I realize that this man lying in front of me is dead. And though it’s not the first dead person I see – my grandparents were florists/gardeners and I remember I once went with my grandfather to deliver a wreath for a dead man, and I saw the dead man at the open casket – I can’t help but get chills. Goosebumps all over my body. I don’t want to be here. I want to go back to the hotel.

I look up to my father, his expression is all grave and stern, which confuses me even more. My father, the funny one who’s always making silly jokes and will probably never really grow up, my father is looking sad. Or so it seems to me.

No one says a word. Just my sister at some point is asking whether this gentleman is resting. My mother immediately shuts her up. If my sister had spoken Russian, maybe someone would have laughed at her childish naivity – or not. But there is no response and we slowly walk around the glass container until we get to the exit.

As soon as I step outside, my eyes search for the Kremlin and upon seeing it, I feel better. The Kremlin looks like a fairytale castle. As long as I can see it, everything’s okay.

I think we went to eat after that and I remember I wasn’t really hungry and slept very bad that night.

photo credit

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