Posted on June 04th, 2003 06:37 PM by admin
by Irina Borisova submitted by Introductions by Irina
Ludmila Moeva's letter was full of hysterical reproofs like " you promised to marry and let me down", Ludmila accused Richard of lying and hypocrisy and asked him not to bother himself to write her any more.
I answered Ruchard's puzzled questions that maybe Ludmila's life had been very hard, maybe she looked forward to his visit so impatiently that broke out. I answered Richard's question about Ludmila's character saying that in my opinion, Russian women like Ludmila are capable of both very good and very bad actions.
Then the crisis of 1998 broke out, and soon another letter from Ludmila Moeva to Richard White arrived, the letter with the request of help. There was neither reproaches nor digressions into Russian history and literature in that letter -- Ludmila wrote that that her kiosk was closed, that she was off work, that her city was dead, life in it stopped, that the winter was ahead, but her son had neither boots nor warm coat. A sheet of paper with the boys' outlined footprint was enclosed in the letter which I scanned and sent to Richard.
Richard White was not an angel. When I charged him for my translation of Ludmila's letter, he sarcastically noticed that he understood all the necessity of charity, but he did not understand why he had also to pay for the letter with the request of it. Being confused, I cancelled my bill, having said that let my translation be my input on the cause of Ludmila's relief.
Very soon the two parcels with the things enthusiastically chosen by Richard already flew to Russia. Richard sent Luidmila's letter with the description of horrors of post-crisis Russian provincial life to his American friends, they posted it to several electronic lists, a charity organisation "Help Russia!" was founded on its basis, tens of addresses of people in need were collected, parcels with warm things, soap, matches and salt started to leave for Russia. It seemed to me that soap, matches and salt were rather touching than actual gifts: times of Civil war in Russia had passed long ago. However, thoughts of Americans collecting the parcels warmed my heart. I imagined that, having torn themselves from their personal and business affairs, they drove around their shopping malls, bought things and thought of Russia. As for Richard and Ludmila, they continued to write, but the romantic side of their correspondence stepped to the background. That time they rather discussed things sent by Richard or "Help Russia!" society's business. Though Richard was still going to come and still asked Ludmila questions how she saw herself in America, something imperceptibly changed in Ludmila's letters after her strange and hysterical message. As if she swept aside any possibility of future happiness, as if she relished in each letter the descriptions of poverty and misery of the life in her city she evasively answered Richard's questions, she hardly even thanked, but rather reproached him for the parcels because the post office charged her additionally to get them as Richard made a mistake estimating them. There was a strange indifference in the air of her letters, the origin of which neither Richard nor I could understand.
But very soon everything became clear. "Help Russia!" society members, having established contacts with a Russian charitable organisation, visited several addresses to which parcels had been sent. In Ludmila Moeva's apartment the visitors discovered dirt and neglect, a drunk company of shady characters and prostitutes famous in the city, they found also drunk Ludmila there who was immediately recognised by the locals as one of the latter, they found her dirty, wild and ragged child, and absolute absence of the things sent by Richard.
Richard White was too hardened by Vietnam to exclaim and to be horrified. He was rather sad and sympathetic in his comment. Needless to say that he stopped writing to Ludmila. Soon the news came that Ludmila's son was taken to an orphanage from her. Later other political events surged, the activity of "Help Russia!" society retarded and then stopped at all. Richard White tried to correspond with several ladies from our agency yet, one of them later left for England after she had replied to him, another also stopped writing for some reason, then Richard was invited to a military camp to train an American contingent sent to Kosovo.
Leaving for the camp he wrote his last letter to me in which he energetically expressed his opinion of a military adventure arranged by the American government. He wrote that he still hoped to come to the city of St.Petersburg sometime, and maybe to meet someone in it.
Here is the end of the story of Richard and Ludmila. Thinking of Ludmila Moeva's life which was once broken and rolled down till, it seems, the last possible level of degradation when a mother forgets her child, guessing at on the reasons which brought her to this degradation I do not think that hard Russian life could be an excuse for her. Thinking of Richard White who had been twice deceived: first, by the American government which sent him to Vietnam, the second time, by a Russian woman he wished to marry, who was deeply disappointed, but did not give up, did not lose faith in himself and sympathy for people, I wonder why the higher justice in which we all somehow or other believe gave him in his life only what was given to few and did him out of what almost everyone had. As none other Richard White deserved happiness and he really managed to experience happiness of the highest standard - happiness to overcome himself, happiness of the victory in the fight with life, happiness of doing good deeds. His empty house was full with his pen-friends voices, and they were also a source of disinterested joy for him. And though Richard White's life was a success in its major I would still ask the destiny to allow him to recover, to come to St.Petersburg and to meet someone here yet because even the best weapon of war AK-47 cannot be constantly in the combat -- it needs someone's kind hands to clean and to oil it and to prepare it with love for new battles.