Three Times A Hero
by James L. Choron
Once again, WOTS extends many thanks to James for this contribution and the many he had made in the past. please visit his web site as well.
I guess eveyone who was there, on the barricades, in August, 1991, remembers Vanya. That was all the name that we knew. I don't think anyone knows his last name, or ever did know it. Vanya was a "bombzh"... a homeless person... Vanya was an Afghanistan vet, and an alcaholic... one of those people that we all see, but seldom pay attention to. On a good day, you could smell him a good two hundred yards... a combination of cheap vodka, and the fact that he slept in the Beloruski Train Station, to keep warm, and hadn't bathed in a few weeks. He lost both legs on a land mine, back in the early 80s, I guess. He was just one example of how the Yeltsin (mis)administration robbed from the poor to feed the rich.
Anyway, he sat, every day, in the Pushkin Square metro (subway) station, on a little wheeled cart, rather like a mechanic's dolley, that he pushed along with his hands, and played his garmosha (the Russian word for an accordian) and sold magazines and other little items to try and make an honest living, and, frankly, to buy the next bottle that would help him dull the pain of his missing legs, and the life that had been taken from him by a senseless war. Because he was a decorated veteran, and sometimes wore his ribbons, the local metro cops would help him up and down the stairs every morning, and every evening, when his "shift" was done, they?d carry him and his little cart back up the thirty-odd feet of steps to the street, again.
Now, like I said, the place where Vanya usually sat was about 30 feet underground, and was about as safe as you could be, considering what was going on at the time, on the surface. As an invalid, no one would question him, if the thing failed, and they lined the rest of us up and shot us, as we fully expected. Aside from that, he was a ?bombzh?. Nobody even noticed him being around, most of the time, except for, as I said, his "aroma", and the music from his "Stomach Steinway".
But... The day day the Coup began... it was all different.
Vanya showed up, at his regular time, but this time, he was different. He was wearing his old uniform, at least from the waist up, and it was bloody perfect... God help me. He was wearing a Hero of the Soviet Union Medal and an ORDER OF LENIN... the two highest medals that this country had to give, at the time... a blue paratrooper's beret and the silver wings of Paratroop Infantry ?Instructor?... He was completely sober, shaven and clean... and had his garmosha with him... Instead of asking Maslov, the cop, to help him down the stairs, into the subway, as usual... he had him help him up the barricade.
Vanya sat there, for three days, on his little cart, right out in the open, for all the world to see, and played for us, and loaded magazines, and rolled bandages... anything else that a man without legs, below the thighs, could do. I'll never, in my life, forget, standing there, in the night, looking out into the darkness, beyond the light of the burning torches, at a scene straight out of my grandfather's time...and listening to "Katyusha" and "Budionka" and "Moscow Moya"... and a dozen others... from half a lifetime and more, ago... played by a man with no legs, who was doing all that he possibly could for the sake of the "cause", and for what he saw as a fight for freedom.
He sat there, day and night, never moving... right out in the open. If he slept, at all, I don' t think it was over a few minutes at a time. It couldn't have been, because the music was alwasys there, in the background, just beyond the reach of consciousness... People would come up to him, give him a drink or something to eat, and ask him to play some old "favorite". I think he must have known every song ever written, or at least for the last fifty years, or so... He even knew my favorite, "Lili Marleen", and would start playing it every time he saw me.
When it was all over, Vanya went right back to what he had always done, and very few people knew, or ever will know what the legless bombzh in the Pushkin Square Subway Station did... He wanted it that way. But... there wasn't a day that went by that he didn't have a fresh bottle, or plenty of cigarettes, and there wasn't a day that he didn't have some "unknown" person leave him a lunch in a brown paper bag. He always sold all of his papers.
Vanya was killed, in August, 2000, almost nine years to the day from the terrible, but wonderful days, in 1991, when he made his statement, and his stand for all the world to see... and hear... It was then that a pair of well placed terrorist bombs exploded in the Pushkin Square Subway Station, right at peak traffic time... six in the evening. It made world news... But... nobody mentioned Vanya in the news. He was just another "nameless bombzh"... But... those of us who knew him, take turns, and leave a rose on the spot where he always sat, every day. And, I'll tell you something else... for those of us who knew him, there's a special hate... a deep hate... one that will burn forever... in the deepest parts of our souls? for the so called "freedom fighters" who murdered a true hero in cold blood... a man who, in spite of being a legless cripple... did more than his part to really fight for freedom?.
Vanya the bombzh was three times a hero...
*PHOTO: Vanya's place in the Pushkin Square Metro Station. There are two orbs in this photo. The smaller one, to the right of center and near the floor is the place where Vanya the Bombzh sat. The larger orb, which seems to halo the worker in the mural, is of unknown origin, but thought to be the spirit of a worker who was killed in a cave-in while the tunnels were being dug, in the early 1940s. The mural, itself, commorates the workers, mostly young people from local schools and universities, who actually dug the tunnels, releiving adults to fight in the Second World War. The photo was taken without flash, with a Sony "CyberShot U" digital camera. The ambient temperature in the tunnel is a constant +15 degrees, Celcius. Lighting is indirrect, from side-mounted fixtures and overhead chandaliers. The difference between reflected lighting and the orbs are distinct in this photo, as the lighting in the tunnel has a "golden" hue to it, and is visible in the upper left hand (and other places) in the photo.
James Choron is a featured contributor to this WorldOfTheStrange website.
Contributions include: !Is Ufology Dead?, King Bird Fifty, The Tunguska Incident - An Overview, School Days, In a Class By Herself, Dawn at the Alamo, Three Times A Hero, Lady With the Lamp, The Little Girl in the Garden
Website: http://wintersteel.homestead.com/home.html (dead link)
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