Age of Hope

Interview with Stanislava Kraskovskaya

Stanislava Kraskovskaya Q: You are 98...

Kraskovskaya: 98... I am getting really old now. But thank God, at least I have my memory.

...I'd like to tell you about my life. I was born in Vladikavkaz in a working class family. There were 14 of us. My father was a carpenter. My mother worked as well, at the factory. We children had to work too. I started working when I was 5. I weeded the kitchen garden.

...We did not have a house. We used to rent a room in a house, and we used to live all in one room, all of us.

Q: Could you tell us how you used to move from one house to another?

Kraskovskaya: In trunks. We were always put into trunks when we moved, my father would find somewhere. And he was asked how many children he had. He'd say "two. And the third one is still inside, isn't born yet." And when we arrived, they'd take the trunk off the cart and say: "You are a worker, and you have so much stuff." And then the owner of the house would come out and tell us to leave. So my father had to start looking for accommodation again.

My father was so exhausted that we decided to go to Sleptsovo. My father could not get any work there. Cossacks did not like Poles. And he, when he talked, he'd say half in Russian, half in Polish. So as soon as he started talking in Polish, they refused to give him work.

...I was always happy with my life, always cheerful, always happy about my circumstances. That's the way my father brought us up. We never liked gold or any such thing. I should not love money or gold, that's how we were brought up. Only work, only work. We worked, and I worked, same as today, I don't need gold or any such thing.

Q: Your childhood...has life changed a lot since then?

Kraskovskaya: I'll tell you. People were better then. There was the middle class, landowners, peasants. We all knew our place and did not envy those who had what we did not have. And now people are different.

Q: But you lived in such poverty!

Kraskovskaya: Yes, we lived in poverty, but we were happy. And no matter how hard my childhood was, I remember it with warmth.

Q: Did you see the Tsar?

Kraskovskaya: Yes...Tsar walked in the front, without any guards. Behind him was a general, and behind him the army. Tsar walked down the road, and people stood along the pavement, about 2 km, all the way to Governor's house. Tsar was not very tall, in military uniform, and for some reason he looked so yellow.

That made me wonder, "Why isn't he frightened? They want to kill him. Why do they want to kill him?" I was quite observant, so I noticed: he lifted his arm to greet the people, and it was as if he was asking, "What can I do?" He was looking so distant, he had an expression of despair on his face. He walked and I moved along with him, all these 2 km he walked, until he disappeared. That made me think: "Why? He lives so well, he has got everything. Why are his eyes so sad, why has he got such an expression of despair on his face?" So now when I go to church, when I come there I always remember Tsar's face, I can see him in front of me.

Q: Did you love the Tsar?

Kraskovskaya: I cannot say I loved the Tsar. I just observed, you see. How can I put it? We thought that Tsar was God on Earth, and God, Jesus is God in heaven. And we prayed to God.

Q: What was it like, to be illiterate, not to go to school?

Kraskovskaya: It was terrible. I suffered so much from it, I always had so many problems because of it. But no one could ever guess that I was illiterate. It's something about the way I looked. I looked like an educated young girl.

I wanted to study. I used to go past a school and look through the windows and watch the children, studying. When I went home, I used to tell father about it. He said: "Children, what can we do, we are poor." He dreamed of us getting education. He tried, but he could not speak Russian himself, and he taught us Polish. I could read in Polish, but I could not in Russian. He always dreamed of educating us. "But I cannot teach you what you could learn at school. But to go to school, you need shoes, you need to pay." But as we were so poor, we had no money.

Q: Please tell us about Pogroms in Vladikavkaz...

Kraskovskaya: ...just as poor as we were, were the Jews who lived in our neighborhood. They had a lot of children, 5, 10, 12 sometimes, very poor. And there were Pogroms, horrific events...The houses were broken into, crockery, everything was smashed. They were beaten up to death, beaten up and killed. They screamed so loudly. It was unbearable. And my father grabbed the children and hid them, because they used to get beaten up.

...My mother used to say: "Why do you keep bringing these Jewish children here?...Haven't I got enough of my own children, and you bring those home as well?" But he wouldn't let them go, he kept them inside and fed them until the danger was over. My father was very kind, he felt sorry for them. And he himself was poor. The houses of the rich were broken into as well. Those in our neighborhood were all poor. But the rich ones were also affected...You can't imagine what a Pogrom is like.

...They ripped the duvets open, and the feathers flew, so every time it snows now, I remember Pogroms, and how my father used to hide the Jewish children.

Q: You've lived for almost 100 years.

Kraskovskaya: Yes, three more years to go, and it will be a hundred.
In my century, we've had electricity, trains, cars, right up to astronauts. This is all my century. It's been fascinating. I'm very pleased with my century.

I see so many changes.
...there used to be no electric lamps, no electricity. Do you think there were electric lamps before? No, there weren't any. We used to have kerosene ones, and ovens that were heated with firewood. Now we have central heating, we did not have it before. We had to use firewood, coal, when I was a little girl, I had to heat up 3 stoves. I was 9 years old, and I have to heat up the stoves, and clean the lamps. And God forbid I broke a glass shade. I'd get beaten up. And you were asking me about dolls. What dolls? I did not know what dolls were. I had no childhood. I used to tell my children that my biggest wish...was for them to see the sun, see the light.

Q: Was it a hard century?

Kraskovskaya: No, you know, I liked this century. There was hope then. And now, there is no hope. People now do not have expectations like we had, and this century was an exciting one. We were very poor, but we were pleased with what we had. It was beautiful and joyful. And then, the markets, you know what the markets were like? In the suburbs, each house had a garden. A small plot of land, a cow, a calf, chicken...and always two pigs, one to sell, one to keep. And each housewife milked her cow and took some fresh milk to the market to sell. And the markets were such mixture of different smells. You arrive, and there were whole pigs, and meat -- veal, whatever you like. Even for the poor there was something. My father used to go to the slaughter house, and get animal intestines.

Yes, it was better then. People nowadays are so wicked, and envious of each other. They can't get enough. It wasn't like this before...The worker knew he should work well, and now, money is all that matters.

Q: What will the next century be like?

Kraskovskaya: I don't know, it is frightening. The century will be good. We'll live on our planet. The earth will become barren, everything will be sucked out, already it does not bear much. What are we eating now? Are there any vitamins in that food? Nothing, only fertilizers. The earth cannot bear anything anymore. That's what this century is going to be like. We are now turning to God, but he does not want us...I won't say anymore. I am turning to politics now. Sometimes I think at night. I wish I could write, at night, I have all these ideas...

Note: Red text is available in RealAudio.

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