The Lark in a Soviet Camp in Siberia

I was listening to George Enescu’s Ciocarlia (The Lark: do listen to it here), and this reminded me of a story from Do Not Avenge Us, the book that contains the testimonies of six people who were deported to Siberia immediately after WWII. The story was written by Ion Moraru, and you may find other fragments from his life on this blog. When this story took place, Moraru had already been in the camp for four years. One day, he meets his former math teacher.


After I left Spask, the final camp where they took me was Aktas. The winds of change were already blowing, and we were beginning to hope. We heard of the first revisited files and the first prisoners liberated before the term.

I had not written any request to have my file reexamined, but I was called one day to the camp office, where I was told officially that the Supreme Court of the USSR reviewed the file of the members of the organization “The Sword of Justice” and decided to maintain the sentence for the accused Lungu, Bobeică, Ţurcanu, and Moraru, but it annulled the 10 year term of exile to the far north.

I had done four years of punishment, so I had six more. I was thinking of the scene with the crippled people coming from the quarry and the tragedy in the “house of wisdom.” What if I end up like them? And if not, will my poor grandparents still live long enough to see me again, to wait for me? What about mom, with her crushed spirit? Despair began to take a hold of me, and I thought more and more often about breaking out of prison.

Around that time, the administration of the camp had softened the work regime. They knew that the terms were being diminished, and they tried to give us reasons to remain there after liberation because they needed a workforce. The KVC was more active than ever. The prisoners were allowed to organize a theater and even a true orchestra.

This is how I met again, to my great joy, my former math teacher from Târnova, Mr. Belinski. He played the violin. When I saw him, I thought that it was him, but it seemed just like in a dream. I went on the stage, I approached him, and then I asked him:

“You are a professor of mathematics; how did you get here?”

When he heard me speaking Romanian, he lost it and could barely ask me who I was.

“I am one of your students from Târnova. Do you remember the feast of St. Basil, on that alley with chestnuts at the mansion?”

Then he ran up to me, embraced me, and started to cry. Then he turned toward the public, holding the violin with one hand and the bow with the other, and said:

“If there is even only one Romanian in the audience, the concert will be Romanian!”

He turned toward the orchestra, touched the strings of the violin, and magic sounds began pouring on that stage. When he played the Ciocârlia (the Lark), we were all mesmerized. We followed his bow as it traveled across the strings, how he brought up the lark in the heights of heaven, and how he brought it down like all the others birds in the meadow accompanying it. Lord, such beauty!

The audience remained speechless, and Boris, a Tatar friend, the painter of the camp, asked me if my violinist is from earth. Then I remembered the words Pimen had told me a long time ago, on the shore of the brook in Slănina: “The culture of the nation must be wore in the world as clothing for a feast.”

After less than two weeks, professor Belinski was sent away to a new “stage,” in an unknown place, and we no longer heard of him.



About Tavi's Corner

Blogging on ancient philosophy, communist persecution in Romania (including deportation to Siberia), and Orthodox Christianity. I've translated books from Romanian to English, and I also write about them from time to time.
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