Evgeny Russ.

Fall of Matilda



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Fall of Matilda

Eugene Russ

Catastrophe.

The USSR board 75559 stood on the runway of the Pulkovo airport. It was a warm April evening in 1974. Passengers have already taken their seats and some of them have already fastened their seat belts. Most of the cadets of military schools and students were flying. They flew for a short vacation. Among them was a young couple. He was an engineer for the construction of bridges and tunnels Anatoly Ksyushinsky and his young wife Natalia. They flew for family reasons. Natalia was worried about her one-year-old daughter Matilda and was visibly nervous, «well, how she now with her grandmother is? Whole four days!»

"Not four, but three," Anatoly answered her, "I already said, it will be difficult for a one-year-old child to fly a flight. I myself get tired of the flights. And we do not have time for the train. Only three days we will not be. On May Day, we will be home."

The crew of the IL-18 also prepared for take-off and has already taken its places.

"Nikolai, why did the crew from Krasnodar refuse to fly back?" asked the second pilot of the aircraft.

"Eugene, they said there was a vibration of the fourth engine, but after that the board passed the test, no faults were found. I think they are just tired," said the commander of the ship Danilov Nikolai Valerianovich.

"Perhaps, Nikolay. We are a spare crew and this is our job. In vain they called them cowardly pilots."

"I agree that when we turned the board last month after the fire detector worked, we were also called cowardly pilots."

"I remember it was a false alarm."

"Well, Eugene, are we ready for takeoff?"

"Yes, Nicholas."

"Well, we are waiting for the command dispatcher."

"Board 75559, do you hear?"

"The tower, Board 75559, we hear perfectly."

"Board 75559, wind north-west 320°, wind speed 7 meters per second, visibility 20 kilometers, take off is permitted."

A minute later, the stewardess entered the cabin and announced by a loudspeaker – you are welcomed by the crew of the Leningrad Unified Air Squadron and the commander of the ship Danilov Nikolai Valerianovich aboard the IL-18. Please put up the backrests of armchairs in a vertical position and fasten your seat belts.

After a while, the plane began to take off on the runway and pulled away from the ground. Rising to the altitude, the passengers relaxed. Some of them unfastened their seat belts.

"The tower, Board 75559, took off," Danilov said to the ground.

"Board 75559, I pass the conditions of exit from the airport zone."

Conditions were accepted by the crew, and after two and a half minutes IL-18 performed the first turn.

"The tower, Board 75559, the lamps of ‘fourth engine fire’ panel turned on, a dangerous vibration," reported Danilov unexpectedly.

"Board 75559, make a landing at the nearest military airfield Gorelovo."

"Tower, Board 75559, we return to Pulkovo.

Provide a fire truck.

After a while, the voice of the dispatcher came."

"Flight 75559, the approach conditions for Pulkovo landing at the magnetic course of 279°, line 28. The firefighting calculations arrived."

"Tower, Board 75559, the fire was confirmed. The fourth engine in the weathervane is on fire."

"Board 75559, make a landing at the nearest aerodrome. Now this is the airfield of Pushkino!"

"Tower, Board 75559, I will carry out the scheme approach at Pulkovo. Firemen are waiting for us! There are no firefighting calculations in Pushkino."

Danilov already had had a severe reprimand and he was scolded by his superiors twice from executing a quick landing with violations. Other pilots even sometimes called him a coward, and this he perceived quite painfully. This time, Danilov decided to land in accordance with the instructions on the mandatory scheme. The plane quickly approached its landing strip and behind it stretched a huge plume of smoke.

"Tower, Board 75559, the distance of 2500 meters, I enter the glide path", – Danilov said.

A second later the Board 75559 began to enter the right bank, while lowering the nose.

"Tower, Board 75559, we fall, the end of the connection", – these were the last words of the commander of the ship, which were heard from the ground.

"It's good that Matilda is not with us now", – these were the last words of Anatoly Ksyushinsky, who tightly squeezed his young wife's hand.

Grandma Tonya.

The years went by. Matilda grew rapidly and developed rapidly. Her grandmother, Antonina Leonidovna, tried to comprehensively develop and educate her granddaughter. She understood that her age would come to an end, and she wanted to be sure that Matilda could learn, graduate, and get a good job to feed herself.

"I need to live another ten years and put his granddaughter on his feet!" though Antonina Leonidovna.

Now she was sitting in a chair and knit wool socks. She took them every Sunday to the market and gave to her friend for sale. It was not possible to her to stand in market and sell socks. She couldn't leave the little one Matilda. Antonina Leonidovna had a small pension, only 72 rubles and 30 kopecks. On life them this was enough. Knitting socks was little bit helpful to her pension. This year Matilda must to go to school in the first grade. It was needed to buy uniform, a briefcase, and notebooks. Textbooks were given out at school for free. The house of Grandma Tonya and Matilda already had textbooks. It was an ABC book, textbooks in English and many books. Matilda at five years learned to read, and at six years the grandmother insisted on the study of Matilda of the English language. It was an English textbook for the fifth grade of high school. Twice a week had coming a young English teacher and engaging with Matilda. Grandmother was paying twenty rubles a month for these lessons. After six months of learning English Matilda's grandmother was forced to withdraw from these lessons. The pensions were become not enough. It could not be said that the products were more expensive, but they gradually disappeared from the shelves, and they could be bought at the Bazaar a little more expensive. It was hidden inflation, expressed in a shortage of goods on store shelves. Goods in the country were, and refrigerators of common peoples were at all or almost at all full. Grandma Tonya still remembered those times when 1 gram of gold was always equal to four rubles and forty-five kopecks, and inflation was absent as a concept. At the end of February 1950, she read in Newspapers about the Decision of the USSR Council of Ministers, in which the Soviet ruble was transferred to a permanent gold base and 1 gram of gold equaled to 4 rubles and 45 kopecks. Yes, it was a Gold Standard! Since then, prices for all goods fell, but after 10 years, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers N. Khrushchev abolished the government decree of March 1, 1950 and again tied all money settlements to the dollar. About it not wrote in Newspapers. But later all began to feel it on their wallet. Sometimes neighbor Zina came to Tonya. She was a little younger, and she had a husband who came back alive from the war. Tonya and Zina were one of the few Leningrad women who survived the blockade and survived. Grandma Tonya still remembered those post-war years when Zina's husband was getting drunk on vodka, and if Zina fell under his hot hand, she always got а fist under her eye. With a bruise under the eye Zina proudly went out into the yard, hanging clothes for drying or just went to the bakery. Many women envied her – a bruise under the eye meant that this woman has a man who returned from the war. Now they were already old. The Zina's husband has already stopped to drink vodka and has passed to kefir. It can’t be said that he did not drink vodka at all. Sometimes he was drinking on holidays, sometimes without any reason. He often sat in the courtyard and knocked on the dominoes. Grannie Zina had no choice but to go to the bench, where women gatherers, or go to visit hers neighbor Tonya.

On the one floor above lived a grannie Katya. She was not a native Leningrader, but came from the East Kazakhstan region after the war, and was been brought by geologist, for whom she married. Grannie Katya rarely told how she worked in the mine as an ore thrower by shovel during all the war. By a shovel, she threw ore into the carts that the horses were transporting. These horses were blind, and their entire adult life passed in the mine. They lived there. They were not raised to the surface. Grannie Katya was always seen with her old husband. They often went for a walk along the waterfront or together went to the cinema. Left alone, the grannie Katya began to often buy vodka. Her pension was high, more than a hundred and twenty rubles and she could afford to drink vodka every day. Drunk no one saw her. Closer to the dinner she began to slowly walk down the stairs and for a long time rested on them, leaning on the railing. It was hard for her to go down and it was also hard for her to climb up. With a shopping bag, she walked to the store. Two hours later, she similarly slow step by step he passed through the yard to my porch. All the neighbors saw who and what bought in the store. And grannie Katya was no exception. All saw in a string bag at grannie Katya a bottle of vodka and half a bottle of black bread. A pack of cigarettes Belomorcanal grannie Kate always carried in his pocket.

"Catherine"! – Told her neighbors, "sit down with us on the bench, sit down, news at least listen".

"I have no time to sit with you", answered the woman Katya and went to the entrance. The lifting by steps on the fifth floor took her twenty minutes. Grannie Zina sometimes sat on a bench and discussed the news, but Grandma Tonya on the bench no one has ever seen. She's been busy all day with Matilda and her knitted socks. Matilda often read aloud the poems of Agniya Barto and Samuel Marshak. Sometimes grandma asked her to memorize and tell. Matilda was good at that. Grandma Tonya never had driving Matilda to kindergarten. Matilda usually had playing in the yard with the girls. They were playing ball or hopscotch. In the sandbox, the girls hid candy wrappers and covered them with glass. It was called ‘secret’. Boys from small to large hung on a bar or played chess. Adults played dominoes. Sometimes, they sometimes played cards, but when the police car UAZ had driving into the yard, the cards had disappearing somewhere and there was a knock of dominoes. When Matilda was in the third grade, she was already allowed to attend English language extensions for fifth graders, and her grandmother had to take her out of school later. Grandma was glad that Matilda is honors pupil and was sure that the English language is useful to her. When Matilda was in fourth grade, one day she came back from school wearing a red tie. Grandma began to cry.

"Grandma, why are you crying?" asked her Matilda, "you were a pioneer?"

"No, Matilda, I'm even was not a member of the Komsomol because I don't have a worker-peasant origin."

"Who did you work for before the war?"

"Before the war I was a Secretary and typing."

"And during the war?"

"During the war I worked at a sugar factory here in Leningrad. Night, when I was not on shift, he exploded," said Grandma Tonya and stopped crying.

"Is fascists blew it up?

"No, the powdered sugar exploded, which rose dust in the shops. Ventilation didn't work."

"Does powdered sugar explode?"

"Yes, Matilda, any powder can explosive."

"Will you tell me more about the war?"

"Yes, of course, but first you have to do your homework and learn all the lessons. You know, you need to learn one lesson in advance, and when the teacher will explain a new topic, you will be all clear and you have questions that you can ask the teacher."

Trouble never comes alone.

It was the fifth year of Perestroika. Matilda was already 17 years old, and she has already passed the school final exams. In the middle of summer her grandmother passed away. Matilda was alone and in the tears. But it did not last long. A week later a UAZ police officer drove up to her house. They were employees of the Children's room of the police and representatives of Social Security. Matilda has been showed some orders and said to collect her things and documents. She, like a minor, was to be sent to the orphanage. The apartment was locked with a key in the presence of the district police officer, and he escorted Matilda to the police car. Matilda took with her a school bag and old grandmother's photos. In the backpack was passport, a school's and a birth's certificate. After some time, UAZ drove up to the building, enclosed by a fence made of brick columns and wrought-iron lattice. The gate was opened by the watchman Vasily Petrovich. He was the watchman of this orphanage and was on duty this day after three days of rest. UAZ without stopping drove up to the entrance of the building. Matilda was taken to the teacher’s lounge and handed over to director. Then, representatives of the law signed some documents with the director and left. Matilda did not understand what was happening.

"So, girl," said the Director, "where are your passport and birth certificate?"

"Here in the backpack," Matilda said.

"Well, leave the backpack here in the staff room, tomorrow morning we'll wrap it up. Now I'm gonna take you bedroom."

"Am I must to live here?"

"Yes, until you come of age. And not just live. You can even work in a garment factory, as learner, like all our grown-up girls. It is care of the state and you have to be glad," the Director said. It was a middle-aged woman with large sizes. Then in the teacher’s lounge was entered the man of thirty years in a sports uniform.

"He is our gym teacher, Andrei," she said to Matilda, "he's on duty today at the orphanage."

The Director then turned to the teacher, "Andrey Andreevich, take her before the dinner in the girls bedroom, let she wait. And I have to run the education Department. Yeah, and don't forget to give her a mattress, blanket, and bedding. That's all, I ran," said Director, and, banging she’s heels, withdrew from the teacher’s lounge.

"Come on, move your ass!" said the teacher and pulled from his pocket a bunch of keys. Matilda stood up and left the teacher’s lounge. Andrei Andreevich closed the teacher’s lounge and led her down the hallway past classrooms. Stopping at one door, he picked the key and opened the door.

"Wait here," said he and penetrated in the room. Then he came out with a mattress and a blanket. "Behold! Take it," said the teacher and gave Matilda a rolled up mattress and blanket. Matilda grabbed it with both hands. The teacher returned to the room and took out the sheets and the towel. "Come on," he said, closing the door, and headed further the hall.

Matilda followed him. The bedroom was small. On both sides of the bedroom was a double bed in a row. The windows were facing the gate and the wooden guard house near them.

"Make the bed which not occupied," the teacher said, tossed the sheets and towel on the nearest stool and went out. Matilda found a free seat on the second tier of one of the beds and made a bed for sleep. Then she went to the window, sat down on a stool and began to examine the street behind the fence. It was a wide street with tram tracks. On the other side of the street at a respectable distance from the road were ten-story residential buildings.

"How nice it was to sit next to my grandmother and listen to her stories about the war, about the blockade of Leningrad and about pre-revolutionary times!" thought Matilda. Her memories were interrupted by a physical education teacher – he came back and brought a pillow.

"Here on the wall read the schedule of daily regime," he said and left.

Matilda stared out the window for a long time and did not understand what was happening and why she could not live alone at home. And then she wanted to go out into the garden to the street. She got up, straightened her dress and started to look for a way out.

"Stand! Not move!" Matilda heard, passing by the open door of one of the offices. She stopped. A teacher of physical education came out of the door.

"Where do you go?" he asked.

"I wanted to take a walk in the garden."

"Not allowed. Go back to room," the teacher commanded.

Matilda had no choice but to return to the bedroom. She had habit to obey teachers and treat them respectfully from times of school. Towards evening, girls and boys began to return to the orphanage. They were all from the older group and had the opportunity to leave the orphanage and go to work. Everyone tried to get back on time for supper.

"Rookie!" The girls returned from work were glad.

"Yesterday we have been told they will to lead an excellent pupil of school. So are you really an excellent pupil of school?"

"Yes," Matilda answered.

"Is it means you are cleverest?" asked one of the girls who chewed chewing gum.

Matilda did not know what to answer, and looked at her coevals around her with perplexity.

"You're in addition a quiet pigling!" another girl said.

"We no need rat-snitch here. If anything not wrong, you'll fly straight out the window," the girl with the chewing gum continued, and then she inflate a bubble out.

On the other side of the room Matilda heard an indecent exclamation, which continued with the words, "What the hell! Newcomer will be sleeping here?"

Then from there to Matilda came a girl in tight jeans and with a small ring, threaded through the lower lip on the left side. The left side of her nose had also inserted some small metallic shiny object, similar to a tetrahedron.

"What stared?" said the ringed one, "did you not find another place? Do not you piss at night?"

"Girls, why are you so angry?" Matilda asked, "I did not anything to you."

Matilda was shocked by the behavior of her coevals and did not even know how to talk to them. The position was saved by the physical education teacher who entered the room.

"So, everyone left and goes to dinner, and do not make a noise, otherwise you'll go follow the ranks!" he said, and waited for everyone to leave.

The dining room was roomy, no smaller than the other school cafeterias. In the dining room, the boys also ate. They were also Matilda's peers. Many of them already had specialties, such as turner, welder, assistant auto mechanic and other working specialties. In the dining room they behaved loudly. The boys loudly talked and pronounced indecent words. Matilda did not hear such words, even from the rare school hooligans. She looked around the audience, and began to for dinner. On table was compote, bread, pounded potatoes with a cutlet. Here were no forks. Matilda took a soup spoon and broke off a small piece of cutlet, then sent it to her mouth. The taste of minced meat seemed to Matilda stale, and she laid this piece in her hand. Putting it aside, Matilda little ate pounded potatoes with bread. The potato was tasteless. After drinking compote, she got up, went out of the dining room with obscene whoops of some boys addressed to her and went back to the girls' bedroom. Matilda realized that she did not want and could not stay here. She went to a poster with a schedule of the day and began to read it. The sleeping room was designed for twenty people. On the left and right side of the room were five double beds. Matilda counted the mattresses.

"Means here will sleep fifteen girls, I'm sixteenth," she thought, "no, sleep here I will not, I should try to get out of here. What if the girls will involves me into fight?" thought Matilda, and began to look is whether in a room suitable items to protect herself. In the room there was nothing except the stools, and nightstands. Near each bed there was a bedside nightstand and two stools. Matilda picked up one of the stools. "Heavy," – she thought, "it will be difficult for me to swing by it and hit."

After a while the girls returned. It was dark outside. Matilda didn't have a watch, and she didn't know what time it was. The girls were divided into small groups, sat on the beds and discussed something. Matilda stood beside the window and looked out. To have acquainted with girls Matilda had no desire. After a while the teacher of physical education entered the room.

"So girls, all stripped and went to bed, then I'll turn off the light," he said, and remained standing in the doorway and watch. Girls, do not hesitate, undressed and lay down in bed, covering up with blankets. They almost all had black pants and white tops.

"What the fuck you are stand? Do you need a special offer for undresses?" said the teacher, turning to Matilda.

"She's shy, modest," said one of the girls and her girlfriends laughed.

"Clearly," said the teacher, and turned off the light, "after five minutes I'll check that all lay in their places."

After that, he went out and closed the door to the room.

"Yeah, he doesn't check, he just always says," said one girl and climb down from her bed. Then to Matilda came a few girls, among them was ringed. Ringed girl on was a stretchy black pants and an expensive bra. There was no curtain in the room, and light from the street lamp penetrated into it.



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