Friday, April 29, 2016

Ten Years in Russia; 1913-1923 PART TWO OF THREE

From Ten Years in Russia; 1913-1923
Karl Larsson 
Translation: SEL

Don’t these testimonies offer seriousness, an honesty and frankness, which reveal the Russian character? Here it is all or nothing.

Our work in Russia resulted in several noticeable changes. Adjutant Lydia Rainio, one of our comrades, noted some vivid depictions and shared them in the Finnish War Cry. Here are some of them, partially condensed.

The man in the fiery red sweater

“To Wasjas village ", the abode of the worst misery amid Petrograd’s most abundant luxury, came two Salvation Army officers on a Saturday afternoon. They looked through a narrow gate, on the walls to see if there still something left beyond its plaster, but saw instead images of evil itself. They came through a narrow walkway walking into one of the first housing areas, on whose open landscape was piled smelly garbage heaps, and where hungry, mangy cats and dogs wallowed. The anxiety that this sight elicited grew increasingly, while the officers groped in the pitch-dark hall where a humid air beat against them. 

Who's there?" was the answer to their knock.

"We would only wish to meet Eugenii Vladimirovitch!" It was the person we knew as "Maxim in the torn coat."

A hoarse murmur was heard, and the door, which had no handle was pushed open.

The air inside, which hit the officers, instinctively brought their hands to their noses.

The darkness inside made it difficult to immediately make out the room's contours. Only when they removed the rags that covered the little window could they see an old woman standing between a couple of benches on which were tossed some torn clothes. The fresh air that streamed in through the little window made it possible for the visitors to present their concerns.

Eugenii Vladiinirovitch’s mother, who in her youth was a doctor’s assistant at one of Petrograd's largest hospital, had after a ‘fall’ slipped deeper and deeper, until she ended up here in "Vasjas village", the shipwrecked souls’ kingdom. And the little dark-eyed, black-haired boy had to bear the curse of the mother’s sins - a passionate, horrible fire burned in his veins. The older he became, the wilder it burned, until he too, had become a poor wreck. Now, he supported himself with newspaper selling.

It was spring. The River Neva had just freed itself from the winter shackles, and ice floes from Lake Ladoga appeared here and there to slide forward slowly, like white ghosts in the dim glow of the streetlights. At a loading dock, where the workers have already drifted away, stood the man in the red sweater and the torn frock. He had made a decision - but an
internal power prevented him and led him instead to our meeting at Gavanskaja ulitza (street).

I saw him for the first time. Dressed in a ragged coat, under which shone forth a fiery red sweater here and there he resembled with, his black lightning lit eyes, a criminal rather than an honest man. I gazed at him for a long time - I do not know if it was the exterior drew my attention or if it was the strange look in his eyes. None-the-less, there was something that caused me to think about him all the way home.

It was SA recruit and soldier enrollment Sunday in Russia. I worked at one of our childrens homes, and which is why I was not in a position to closely follow the various events in the corps.

Great was my surprise, therefore, when I saw among those dedicated and enrolled was the "man in the fiery red sweater and torn coat."

He became a recruit. He is now a member of the Salvation Army and one of the most ardent sales agents of the Vjestnik Spasenija.

A chapter from; Return to Russia with Flags Unfurled: Sven Ljungholm with Kathie (Ljungholm) Bearcroft - Will be released late summer 2016

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