Do Not Avenge Us, the volume about the suffering of Romanians in Bessarabia, is not only a testimony of the horrors brought upon Bessarabia by the Bolshevik occupation. It is also a story about life, about the beauty of moments lived in simplicity. This is a love story between two children who are separated by deportations.
The text in the book may have suffered some transformations in the process of editing.
The narrator of this story is Ion Moraru.
The girl with a fragrance like basil
I had met Lealea a few years back, on a Sunday, when I went to play on the village’s pasture. I saw a group of girls playing and reciting riddles. Among them, there was a girl around seven-eight years old, with brown, wavy hair, and with blue eyes of such brilliant radiance. I thought that I was looking into them as into a mirror. She had just finished chanting a rhyme, and the girls were asking her
“Come, Lealea, say it again…”
They were calling her Lealea out of love. Her true name was Lidia.
She did not give up:
“I am tired; I want to go home…”
I went to talk to them, and I told her to tell me the rhyme with Father Abraham. She held my neck with her small hands and began to pronounce the words as in an incantation; I held her by her fingers, following the rules of the game. Then she asked me to help her cross the bridge because her mother had forgotten to come after her. The bridge was narrow, made out of two boards put together. I told her to hold tight on my neck, and I held her tight to my chest. She had a frail body and she smelled beautifully, like basil. Something passed through me that day, I don’t know what, like a thrill, something inexplicable that I cannot explain even today. I did not even realize when we arrived on the other shore. I put her down, she thanked me, and then she left and was gone for four years. All this time I have not seen her, even once. Her family moved to Mândâc, and I lost track of her. Slowly, she faded from me, and only her eyes remained in my soul, those beautiful and deep eyes in which I had seen myself and for which I wrote some lines:
I had never seen
The sea with its billows,
But I beheld the blue
In a girl’s eyes: my mirrors…
In 1945, when the Soviet people came and organized the school in Târnova with students from all the surrounding villages, I met Lealea again in room 5A, where she studied together with a boy from my village, Coliusha. I went to Coliusha’s room often because we would talk about homework and about things at home, this and that. Lealea was in the first row, always silent, with her head bowed. She had grown by now; she was 13 years old. Coliusha asked me:
“Do you know her?”
When I looked closer, she had the same eyes. She was no longer that little child I had helped cross over the bridge; she was differently built, and only those eyes had remained from that butterfly of a girl. But the thrill came back to me immediately. I looked at her, she bowed her head, and I do not know how, but I asked her whether she still wanted me to help her cross over the bridge.
“Now I can cross the bridge by myself!”
From that moment on, I never left her alone, always keeping my eyes on her!
One day, it had snowed a lot, and two boys her age threw her in the snow, piling all the snow on her. I rushed at them like an eagle, and I suddenly began throwing them around. She ran to class, but her little hat knitted from Angora and sheep wool remained at my feet. I picked it up, shook it, and gave it to her saying:
“Here is the trophy from the battle!”
She said, “Thank you, bade!”
“I have a name; if you call me ‘bade’ (a name used for older brothers) again, I won’t come to your class any longer!”
I don’t remember what she answered, but then she told me:
“I pray you, do not beat those two…”
“Because I do not know you to be a bad one…”
That’s what she told me. On that day, I did not understand. She said it because she said it! I only know realize the kind of soul she had within her…
And that was it… On July 6th, the deportations began, and someone whispered to me that they took Lealea as well. Her father had died in the spring, and she had moved with her mother to Târnova. I ran all the way to the train station in Târnova; I ran from one end of the train to the other, but I did not see her anywhere. I found out later that her mom had held her tight, not allowing her to come out because she knew what I was capable of. If I had seen her, I would have jumped on the train for sure, to go with her to Siberia. Not only then, but even now, if I were to relive my life, I would do the same!