Miracles Among Orthodox Believers

Third Testimonial

Two women lived in Leningrad and loved each other with total devotion. When the war began, their faith in their own invincibility was fearless . . . They lived in the twilight-colored building, number 15, on Liteyny Avenue.

Military blimps hung above the city at night: they were beautiful in the pink rays of dawn. The women loved to make love at dawn, when these fantastical, crimsoning objects would peer inside their window.

But gradually their souls began to turn to ice, to shrink; soon there was neither love, nor fearlessness, but only a dull annoyance, a dull hunger, a dull frigidity, a dull drowsiness . . . Their bodies ceased to be their own lovers, but transformed into an irritating, hateful burden, almost into enemies; these bodies demanded unbearable sacrifices, and promised their souls nothing but earthly life in return. Monstrous bodies, draconic bodies, deformed bodies relentless in their cruelties, in their sadistic tortures, bodies repulsive to the touch . . .

And soon it was January, and one of the women went out for water one day: the water was handed out at different locations each time, and now it was on Voinov Street, and this woman trudged along, dragging her sledge down Liteyny Avenue, then she turned on Voinov, and after continuing a bit she saw, at the corner, on the stoop of a building . . . she saw a doll. This doll was looking at her with wide-open, shining eyes and a golden glow on its cheeks. The woman looked indifferently at the doll; she passed it by; but something began to prick at her soul, and she stopped. Perhaps it was the purity and youthfulness of the doll’s face that struck her. The woman returned, bent over the doll, and the doll looked her in the eyes . . . it was a child, alive. Good lord, the woman thought: why, for what purpose, had this poor creature been born in this place, at this time! She felt a sense of guilt. The woman took the child into her arms, heavy as it was, she pressed it close, and set off . . . she decided to carry the child to the orphanage.

As she walked along listening to the child, it made no sound, and she thought: dead. She looked at it and froze in horror, then immediately decided she was hallucinating. She closed her eyes, opened them again . . . and saw the same thing: a loaf of bread. So large, thick, golden, and real. Swaddled in a woolen blanket. This must be the end, she thought, this is madness.

She returned home, bolted the door, and woke her companion, and together they gently broke a piece from the still-warm loaf–yes, it was a loaf of bread, really–and drowning in the sweetest aromas, they brought tender morsels to each other’s lips and touched each other, their first touch in such a long, dead time.

Bios

Lida Yusupova

Lida Yusupova is the author of three books of poetry, Irasaliml (1995), Ritual C-4 (2013), and Dead Dad (2016), and co-author with Margarita Meklina of the prose collection Love Has Four Hands (U liubvi chetyre ruki, 2008). Dead Dad was awarded the Difference (Razlichie) poetry prize in 2017, honoring her “books in which poetry becomes an investigation. … The jury took special note of the innovative and uncompromising language in her discussions of violence.” In 2016, she received an invitation to attend the AATSEEL (the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages) conference, an honor offered annually to a single poet. Her work has been published in the journals Air (Vozdukh), Mitya’s Magazine (Mitin Zhurnal), St. Petersburg Review, Atlanta Review, and others. Her verse has been translated into English, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Hebrew, Czech, and Polish. She has lived in Petrozavodsk, St. Petersburg, and Jerusalem, and now resides in Toronto and on an island off the coast of Belize. Kirill Kobrin has said of Yusupova’s poems, “Their angle of observation and description is nearly impossible for Russian poetry.”

Brad Michael Damaré

Brad Michael Damaré holds a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Michigan. His translations have recently appeared in Russian Studies in Philosophy, 100 Poems About Moscow: An Anthology (B.S.G. Press, 2016), and The Palgrave Handbook to Russian Thought (forthcoming). He lives in Los Angeles with his husband.

Copyright (c) Lida Yusupova. English translation copyright (c) Brad Michael Damaré, 2019.