More snow, and looming world war. What a winter. A student who’s lived in Russia says Putin is Hitler and things will get much worse, that the brainwashed Russian people have no idea what’s going on and no possibility of protest. I was just shovelling out front, got into conversation with a woman passing by, heard her accent and asked where she was from. Ukraine, she said, and we discussed the situation. She asked what my country was. Canada, I said. No, she said, further back, where did they come from?
I paused. Ukraine, I said. My father’s grandparents came from Ukraine, the Pale of Settlement, it was called, where all Russian Jews were forced to live. Today I saw a map of places the Russians are attacking, including Myrhorod, where my great-grandfather was born, and Melitopol, where his sisters later lived. We undoubtedly have family there, if any of them survived the Nazis and Stalin. Was ever a people so cursed, to go from the Tsars to Stalin and the Soviets to Putin, the oligarchs, and the Mafia? Could it be worse?
This morning I wanted to check if there were old essays I’d forgotten about for the compilation, so I pulled out the box marked “Mum’s collection of my work.” I knew she’d kept clippings of my published writing. I didn’t know she’d kept scores of each one, sometimes large colour xeroxes or reductions, stacks of them. People sent them to her, too: “Another essay by Beth!!” In an article about my love of peanut butter, I mentioned there was none available when we lived in England; four letters were published in the Globe refuting that claim and listing different kinds of English pb. Mum cut out all the letters, stuck them to paper, xeroxed it many times.
I don’t know what she thought I’d do with seventeen copies of the same essay and will throw most of them out. But it’s nice to know she was thinking of me.
And I did find one essay I’d forgotten about that’s going into the collection. Thank you, Mum.