The Bronze Horseman
Author:Simons, Paullina

“Tatiana!” Papa was glaring at her with an expression that said, if you don’t come here right now…

But Tatiana dawdled to hear more. Her father yelled across the corridor, “Tatiana Georgievna! Come here and help.” Like her mother, her father said her full name only when he wanted Tatiana to know how serious he was. Tatiana hurried, wondering about Petr Petrov and about why her brother couldn’t open the front door himself.

Volodya Iglenko, who was Pasha’s age and was going to the Tolmachevo camp with him, walked downstairs with the Metanovs, holding his own suitcase and opening his own door. He was one of four brothers. He had to do things for himself. “Pasha, let me show you,” Tatiana said quietly. “It’s like this. You put your hand on the handle, and you pull. The door opens. You walk outside. It shuts behind you. Let’s see if you can do it.”

“Just open the door, Tania,” said Pasha. “Can’t you see I’m carrying my suitcase?”

Out on the street they stood still for a moment.

“Tania,” said Papa. “Take the hundred and fifty rubles I gave you and go and buy us some food. But don’t dawdle, like always. Go immediately. Do you hear?”

“I hear, Papa. I’ll go immediately.”

Pasha snorted. “You’re going back to bed,” he whispered to her.

Mama said, “Come on, we better go.”

“Yes,” Papa said. “Come on, Pasha.”

“So long,” Tatiana said, knocking Pasha on the arm.

He grunted unhappily in reply and pulled her hair. “Tie your hair up before you go out, will you?” he said. “You’ll scare off the passersby.”

“Shut up,” Tatiana said lightly. “Or I’ll cut it off completely.”

“All right, let’s go now,” said Papa, tugging at Pasha.

Tatiana said good-bye to Volodya, waved to her mother, took one last look at Pasha’s reluctant back, and returned upstairs.

Deda and Babushka were on their way out with Dasha. They were going to the bank to get their savings out.

Tatiana was left alone.

She breathed a sigh of relief and fell onto her bed.

Tatiana knew she had been born too late into the family. She and Pasha. She should have been born in 1917, like Dasha. After her there were other children, but not for long: two brothers, one born in 1919 and one in 1921, died of typhus. A girl, born in 1922, died of scarlet fever in 1923. Then in 1924, as Lenin was dying and the New Economic Plan—that short-lived return to free enterprise—was coming to an end, while Stalin was scheming to enlarge his power base in the presidium through the firing squad, Pasha and Tatiana were born seven minutes apart to a very tired twenty-five-year-old Irina Fedorovna. The family wanted Pasha, their boy, but Tatiana was a stunning surprise. No one had twins. Who had twins? Twins were almost unheard of. And there was no room for her. She and Pasha had to share a crib for the first three years of their life. Since then Tatiana slept with Dasha.

But the fact remained—she was taking up valuable bed space. Dasha couldn’t get married because Tania took up the space where Dasha’s prospective husband would lie. Dasha often expressed this to Tatiana. She would say, “Because of you I’m going to die an old maid.” To which Tatiana would immediately reply, “Soon, I hope. So I can marry and have my husband sleep next to me.”

After graduating from school last month, Tatiana had gotten a job so she wouldn’t have to spend another idle summer in Luga reading and rowing boats and playing silly games with the kids down the dusty road. Tatiana had spent all of her childhood summers at their dacha in Luga and on nearby Lake Ilmen in Novgorod, where her cousin Marina had a dacha with her parents.

In the past Tatiana had looked forward to cucumbers in June, tomatoes in July, and maybe some raspberries in August, looked forward to mushroom picking and blueberry picking, to fishing on the river—all such small pleasures. But this summer was going to be different.

Tatiana realized she was tired of being a child. At the same time she didn’t know how to be anything else, so she got a job at the Kirov factory, in the south of Leningrad. That was nearly adult. She now worked and constantly read the newspaper, shaking her head at France, at Marshal Pétain, at Dunkirk, at Neville Chamberlain. She tried to be very serious, nodding purposefully at the crises in the Low Countries and the Far East. Those were Tatiana’s concessions to adulthood—Kirov and Pravda.

She liked her job at Kirov, the biggest industrial plant in Leningrad and probably in all of the Soviet Union. Tatiana had heard that somewhere in that factory workers built tanks. But she was skeptical. She had not seen one.

She made silverware. Her job was to put the knives, forks, and spoons into boxes. She was the second-to-last person in the assembly line. The girl after her taped the boxes shut. Tatiana felt bad for that girl; taping was just so boring. At least Tatiana got to handle three different types of utensils.