Incidents » Disasters, catastrophes

Buried Alive

 The story I am going to tell you about is absolutely real. This happened long ago, and the only lie in my story is that I call some characters by different names because I do not know the real names for all of them.
…Ksyusha Kolomiitseva was the most beautiful girl in her village. An intelligent, good-looking girl with the sense of humor had rich dowry, and many local rich families hoped their boy will be chosen by Ksyusha and her parents as a fiancй. The old tradition of parents' choosing a fiancй for their daughter would not work in this case because the girl was very obstinate. She was the most beloved child in the family, where all – mother, father and two brothers – adored her. The father used to buy her expensive things. Once the father bought for Ksyusha beautiful morocco shoes in Moscow after going on the czar  governor-general invitation  to celebrate the royal dynasty's anniversary. The family farm workers also loved and respected her, first as a lovely little girl, then as a beautiful young lady whom nobody dared to offend – she could put a pertinent person in his place.
The village she lived in was small, but its residents were wealthy. Is had a mill, a blacksmith workshop and a school affiliated to the local church where village kids were taught to read and write. The richest village residents supported the school with money and sometimes invited there teachers from the town in addition to the local reading teacher and the preacher who ran the school. In his teaching the preacher often practiced corporal punishment  with birch to students. "Look, Danilych! Don't beat girls! They don't need much the knowledge you teach. And never dare to touch my Ksyusha!",-her father used to tell the preacher. "All right, all right, Kuzma Nazarych! Your girl is like an angel, I am not able to offend her", - the preacher Serafim replied in horror. The fellow villagers called the preacher not by his first name, but by his patronymic, and perhaps he did not have a saint life because later he was not able to save the girl from trouble.
Most of the village residents were decent people. However, there were some exceptions – a couple of families whose wives constantly asked other people for salt and "gas"(kerosene). Their children were always hungry and dirty. Becoming older, they reminded wolf cubs because they were angry at everybody. Nothing helped could influence their bad fathers, who were not ashamed by the other villagers criticism and were not afraid of the warnings to take their children to the town orphanage.
One of such kids named Ignashka began express attention to Ksyusha. He ignored the girl's brothers threats and often followed her in the streets and in the church where she used to come alone for Sunday mess. Her father was not a frequent churchgoer and believed that in any case God will reward him for his hard work. Ksyusha's mother preferred talking with other ladies to attending church.
In a lovely spring evening Ksyusha was walking home from the church. She was feeling good – the father promised her to buy some more things for her dowry. The thought of the father's presents made Ksyusha walk faster, then she ran home. She could already see the father’s workers and his barns, when something put her down on the ground.
Losing consciousness, she could see Ignashka’s sweating face: perhaps he followed his victim for a long time.
…When shocked parents ran to the daughter, their workers had almost beaten Ignashka  to death with sticks. Drunk Ignashka was shouting foul language words and covering his head with hands. Preacher Serafim and the village headman saved Ignashka from being killed, his body was broken all over but he was alive. Ksyusha lying on the ground looked dead, her skin color turned pale. One of her eyes was half-opened, and one could see how the look of life was disappearing from it. The pupil of her eyes narrowed, and the corners of her mouth lowered. "Give me your belt plate! Belt plate!",- the father shouted to the boy in the technical school uniform, who was watching the scene with the other villagers. Then he put the plate metal to the girl's lips, hoping to see the signs of her breathing. But in vain… The village doctor said after feeling the girl's pulse: "To take her to the hospital is wasting of time. She is dying because she fell with her head onto the stone".
Women started crying, Ksyusha’s mother fainted, her brothers ran to catch up with the cart taking Ignashka to the town prison, but there was no use in it…
…Kuzma made a coffin for his daughter by himself. The father, who in a day began looking much older, was crying: "I was preparing a different house for you, daughter".
…The funeral took place a day later. The death did not leave its signs on Ksyusha's face, only her lips turned white. "I want to see her one more time!",- the parents cried trying to approach the coffin when it was being lowered with towels. That day and night the parents did not leave the grave spot. Matrena was not able to walk: she was lying unconscientiously on the grave. Kuzma hugged the yellow grave cross and was whispering prayers.  In the morning they both were in the same positions. The village women took Matrena from the grave: they needed the mother for cooking funeral repast breakfast.
Kuzma already was not able to cry. He was on the ground, leaning against the cross. Suddenly Kuzma felt a weak move somewhere. It was not clear where it was, probably under the ground. Then it repeated again. Kuzma moved away from the grave and crossed himself with his hand. Then he crawled to the grave on his hands and knees. Shaking as in fever, Kuzma could hear knocks from under the ground.
Kuzma ran to the people who were approaching with the funeral repast breakfast: "Give me a spade! Quickly!" The women thought he was out of his mind because of his daughter’s death and caught him by his shirt. But Kuzma freed himself and ran to his house. A moment later he was running back with two spades. "Take one!",- he threw the spade to the preacher. They both started digging. First they worked in silence, being watched by the shocked villagers coming for the funeral repast breakfast. Then Kuzma started cursing badly, and the preacher began singing a prayer for the dead.
The coffin was lifted with the same towels. The onlookers were terrified. It was shocking to see the preacher digging the grave. Kuzma looked mad. The people were curious to see what is inside the coffin.
The preacher was the first who came to his senses: "Kuzma, stop it… What are we doing?" And he put his hand on the coffin lid nails to prevent Kuzma from opening it. "Move your hand away or I'll cut it!",- Kuzma shouted breathing heavily and hit the coffin with the spade. The preacher could hardly move his hand aside a moment earlier. Kuzma opened the coffin lid…
…Ksyusha lied almost on her side. Her fingers were bent around the fabric which decorated the coffin. The halo she had on the head was crippled and lied under her cheek. Her hair neatly combed for the funeral by the village women were in disorder. They turned of gray color.
Kuzma fainted. The village doctor and the technical school student (he happened to be the neighbors’ son Grisha who came on vocation) were running to him bring the man back to consciousness. The onlookers kept silence being shocked, some women fainted and the others kneeled crossing themselves.
The technical school student put the belt plate to the dead girl lips. Then the doctor started treating the dead body by putting liquid ammonia under the poor girl’s nose. Soon her breast started moving in breathing, suddenly Ksyusha started coughing, shaking her head beating it onto the coffin and the pieces of the ground in it.
For a week nobody but the doctor enter the Kolomiitsevs' house. Sometimes the poor girl's people left the house on their business, but they said nothing to the villagers. The only information came from the village headman about Ignashka’s being sent to exile for hard labor. Soon Ignashka parents' house was burned, and who knows why… People said different thing about that fire… Nobody saw Ignashka’s family any more.
Ksyusha recovered a week later and became a completely different person. Her beautiful light brown hair turned gray. Blush disappeared from her cheeks. Her voice became hoarse and frightening: she torn vocal chords when calling for help. I still remember this voice.
And she spoke strange things: she dreamed about white and red people, or said that the church bell would fall and there would be a hunger everywhere. The hunger will take place many times, she assured people.
Local doctors told the father that his daughter lost her mind and would hardly recover. They offered to put her to a special hospital. But the obstinate father disagreed: "I will take care of her by myself because it is my fault that I buried her alive".
One day a traveler came to the village and visited the Kolomiitsev's house. Quiet gray-haired Ksyusha asked: "Are you going to the war or   returning from it?" "A prophet!",- the stranger exclaimed.
The war will break out! The bad news immediately spread all over the village. The mothers and wives started crying… And two weeks later the village men were leaving for the fronts of the World War 1. My grandfather, a young man at that time, joined them…
Ksyusha became a village blessed. Everybody believed her words as absolute truth. She predicted the future revolution and dividing of the villagers by the Red and White Army soldiers. But before all this happened, people could not understand the sense of her prophets. One thing was clear: a civil war will take place ("The brother will fight his brother"). And the hunger happened indeed. In 1921 my grandmother buried her oldest son Pavlik who was among those who died of hunger.
Everybody called Ksysha by nickname Kolomytchikha as an old lady. In 1939 she told village Party Committee Head that his brothers will be burning like firewood.  Yakov was a brave man, but he did not ignore the prophets' words. He secretly came to the church which had been used as a warehouse by the new Communist authorities, stood in front of the picture of God painted on the wall, burned a candle and was singing strange songs in unknown language for a long time. Former preacher Danilych who was working as a watchman for the warehouse in the church building understood that Yashka cried in ancient people language after God’s blessing.
The Kolomiitsevs family survived the hard years of hunger. During the hunger period the parents died, but Ksyusha and her brothers stayed alive. Probably the father told one of the son where he had hidden the gold he had. During the Great Patriotic War in 1941-45 the family donated the gold for tank column construction. During the war Kolomitchikha predicted which of the village men would return home and who would  be killed. The soldiers' wives came for listening her prophesy as for the last hope. Kolomytchikha charged nothing but a piece of bread for it. She was saying with a  hoarse voice: "Wait, he will come soon on three legs". Indeed, very soon the soldier was walking home on crutches. All his family shouted with joy. "Wait for a white paper!",- and all the family cried in grief.
All Kolomiitsevs returned from the war, although with wounds:  Kolomytchikha's brothers and her son Kostik born in 1920s (nobody knew his father). After the birth of her son Kolomytchikha recovered her mind again, only from time to time she behaved in a strange way. Each in the family loved Kostik for the good influence on his mother he had.
Life went on, everybody cured the war wounds. People and the ground. Kolomytchikha alongside with the other villagers ploughed the ground with cows, gathered wheat spikes and built houses. She also cured people who "was frightened."
My mother told she remembered Kolomytchikha as very old lady, when she "poured out" her "horror" by putting candle wax in the hot water. I remember her in an old age as well: she poured our my “horror” in the end of 1960s. I remember an extremely tasty borshch aunt Ksyusha treated us withtelling my grandmother I was frightened by a dog.
She died about seven years ago… Nobody knew her age: one hundred years or more… She was not rich and looked ugly, but people loved her.
Probably all her destiny was for a reason, and all her life was the wealth of Kolomytchikha, Ksyusha, the favourite daughter of the happy father who buried her alive?

Natalia Bunyaeva
Source: "Vecherni Stavropol" newspaper