7 Chapter 7: New friends

Having woken up, I saw that Florentian was gone. Apparently, there was rather late morning already; suddenly I was surprised by the big and clear raindrops that were knocking at the windows. That was the first rain since that time when I came to my brother’s to K. It never rains in summer there, and one, being stuck round with dust and sweat, is dreaming of such raindrops as of manna from heaven.

I jumped to my feet immediately and started laughing, remembering how I was amazed by the sudden moves of Florentian when he sat up just like I did after waking up. I dashed to the window like a cat to the mouse and I drew the curtain back.

The rain seemed to me no stranger and nice. A forest, the real green forest, was looming through the grey rain’s veil, and the heat was gone.

I sensed a tender feeling for my motherland, as if a remorse, that I had valued her so poorly up to now – its forests, green water-meadows, grasslands of lush grass… I was happy that I got to my own land, that there was no that greyish yellow landscape, no those blue domes and minarets of the mosques, which were bulging like the mountains.

As soon as this thought flashed in my imagination, the train of the last days’ events, people, separate words and episodes came to the surface instantly.

My joy faded away, my movements became sluggish. I started dressing myself slowly and I was thinking what kind of salad had mixed in my head. I was unable to relate all events consistently in any way: what had happened yesterday, today or three days ago – everything was tied into one big knot, and I was unable to pull anything out of my memory.

Suddenly my ear caught a word that flew in from the corridor, and the timbre of the voice seemed to be familiar again.

“It’s strange,” I thought for a while. “I could always remember faces and voices so well, but now it seemed that I’d lost that gift, too. The damned cap of the dervish and the heat must have damaged not only my hearing, but my brain, too.”

At that moment a baritone of unique beauty was heard again. I even sat up out of amazement, the sweat stood out on my face due to the heat, although it was pretty chilly in the compartment.

“I really got out of order, as the messenger of my brother used to say,” I continued my thought by wiping the sweat off my forehead. “That dervish couldn’t get here, could he? The one who gave me his clothes and whom we had stopped at in the night.” My head was spinning so much because of everything that I could feel nausea which was seizing me even physically.

I thought for a while that now even in the presence of death penalty I wouldn’t be able to tell about all events, because my mind refused any logical thinking. I was sitting sadly, hanging my head down, while in the corridor I could distinguish two voices already, which were speaking in English. One of the voices was Florentian’s, and another one – the same wonderful metal baritone, smoothing and soft, but it seemed that if only temperament was given to this voice, then it would become severe like an element.

“I cannot be such lost little child. I must go and make sure whom Florentian is speaking to.” While thinking like this, I was trying to grasp in vain when we parted with the imaginary dervish, how much time had passed since that moment, if he could have time to get here.

As soon as I decided to leave our compartment, the door opened and Florentian entered. His wonderful face was fresh as one of a youth, his eyes were shining, a smile was playing in his lips – I would have gazed at this incarnation of energy and kindness and I would have never believed how strictly serious he could be sometimes.

From the expression of my embarrassed face he as though read all my thoughts, took a seat next to me, embraced me and told tenderly.

“My dear boy! All these events of the last days could also violate not so delicate organism like yours, but everything that you had to experience, you have withstood heroically. Fear or a thought about the danger threatening you didn’t disturb your heart at least one time. You were so loyal, you were striving to save your brother as much as possible. Now I know already what is the fate of Ali and his family.”

And he told me how Ali and his nephew came back to the town after he saw us and the dervish off. First of all he led all people out of his house and hid them in a deep concrete cellar below a stone barn in the very depth of the garden. He also brought some more valuable carpets and other things here. He disguised the entrance, so that nobody could find them. In this way Ali and his family spent the terrible night in the deep cellar, because the whole crowd of dervishes and muslims were playing the master above them.

Florentian didn’t tell me in detail about the inevitable terror during such events. The government, having found out that the massacre was taking a large scale, - and that wasn’t included in its plans, - sent the patrols across the entire town, but the patrols started their job only when Ali’s house was already set on fire from all sides.

The fanatics did the same to your brother’s house. The old and dry like a chip house soon turned into ashes. But here the misfortune was bigger. The bribed messenger let some people into the house in the evening – as if to take a look at your brother’s library. They tried to treat him to some wine, and it turned out that he liked it very much, so they had a good time. Nobody knows exactly what happened next, but the fact is that the messenger jumped out of the burning house through the window, and the visitors burnt down. When he jumped through the window, its frame injured his head. A patrol who was going by found him when he was running through the little gates of the garden. He was half- naked, blood-stained and in shock. The patrol took him to the hospital. The messenger was raving and kept repeating.

“Captain… master… brother… They tried to break in,” – and then again. “Captain… master… brother… I didn’t let them in… they set in on fire…”

The medical officer, having found out from the soldiers that they knew the patient, that he was the messenger of captain T., became worried and sent someone to inform the general of the fire in the captain T.’s house. He also ordered to tell the general that nobody knew where captain T. was, perhaps he and his brother burnt down in the fire; that he didn’t manage to find out something more from the messenger, and it seemed that he would die, without recovering his consciousness.

Awakened general who was ill disposed towards the local people and who didn’t like if his night rest was disturbed dashed off to the governor. He arranged such a show over there that everybody was awakened instantly. Haven’t seen or heard anything up to now, having considered the religious

questions of the locals not to be worth of any attention of the czar’s authority, the officers began to see things clearly and started to put out the fire of religious fanaticism by declaring the massacre to be a riot.

Having paid authority for not interfering in their affairs, the raging crowd of fanatics was surprised when they saw the fire-brigade and a troop of the army. The mullah was persuading the dervishes and the crowd that it was only a dramatization, that nobody would touch them, but having seen the soldiers formed and ready to shoot, he was the first who started running, and after him the whole wild crowd ran away in all directions.

Ali’s house was partly saved, but my brother’s house was burning like a bonfire, the flame was raging so much that it was impossible even to come nearer to it. It seemed that from the ravings of the poor messenger an opinion was formed that captain T. and his brother burnt down with the house.

While Florentian was telling me about all of it, a single thought was tormenting me: “Whose voice did I hear? What’s the name of that man?”

Not for the first time during our short acquaintance, I was surprised by the stunning ability of Florentian to answer the questions that I was asking in my thoughts. And now, too, he explained to me that in Samara two of his friends boarded our carriage, whom he greeted on the platform.

“You already know one of them,” he uttered these words with such unique humour, he blinked an eye at me so comically that I burst out laughing. “He’s an Indian and his name is Sandra Kon- Ananda. You aren’t mistaken by deciding that many singers could dream about such voice. He sings amazingly, he knows music perfectly, and here you will have a lots in common, if you aren’t attracted by other characteristics of this peculiar, interesting and well educated man. My other friend is Greek. He’s also an extraordinary man. He’s a great mathematician, but his character is more complicated: he’s gone deep into his science and he’s less associative, sometimes he’s strict and even stinging. Don’t worry if he keeps silent; he isn’t talking much, but he’s kind-hearted, he has suffered a lot and he’s ready to help everybody in his misfortune. Don’t draw a conclusion according to his appearance. If you want to talk to him, overcome your shyness and address him like you’re addressing me.”

“Like I’m addressing you!” I gave a shout, being even excited. “But can anybody be equal to you? Even if there were thousands of wonderful people drawn up in front of me and I was offered to choose a friend, a guardian, a brother – I wouldn’t like anybody else, but you. And now, when everything what was dear and close to me – my brother – is in danger, when I don’t even know when I would see him again, whether I save myself, I’m glad with life only because I’m next to you. The whole new horizons open up for me through you and in you, as though everything would take another meaning. Only now I understood that life’s value and beauty – that’s not only love to those with whom we are connected through the bonds of our blood, but joy to live and fight for happiness and freedom of all people. And I understood this only by staying next to you. What would have happened to me during all those days if you hadn’t been next to me? It is unimportant that I would have died from the hand of a fanatic, but only that is important that I would have left my life not living a single day without fear, not grasping what happiness is to live when fear isn’t squeezing my heart. And I understood that only by staying next to you. Now I know that life is leading everybody to such altitudes to which the perception of his own work as a work-joy, as a work-sincere help can rise, so that the darkness round him would be overcome with joy. All coincidences which pushed me into the vortex of the passions now seem to me like blessed, and they happened only because I could have met you. And nobody, nobody in the world could be equal to you in my heart!”

Florentian was listening to my passionate speech in silence; his eyes were smiling kindly, but I could see in them a shadow of sadness and compassion.

“I’m very happy, my dear friend, that you have evaluated our meeting and my presence next to you so much,” Florentian was talking to me with his hand placed on my head. “This proves that you possess a sense of gratitude, which is a rarity among people. Only don’t be excited. If your consciousness has widened during these days, then certainly your heart should have opened up, too. The limits of conditionalities should have disappeared both in your heart and your thoughts. Now you should look at every man with absolutely different eyes, searching in him not for what everybody can see at once, not for striking characteristics of his mind, his beauty, wit or anger, but for his inner strength and kindness of his heart, which only may become the light for all surrounding people who are buried in the darkness of their superstitions and passions. If you want to carry the light and freedom to people’s lives, then start looking at them in a new way. Start to distinguish vigilantly the differences between the poor and accidental in man and between his great qualities which were born in his work, fight and entire chain of victories against himself. Start now, not tomorrow. Reject the superstition that man is such as he looks like, but make a decision about him only from his acts, always trying to enter his situation and to find a justification for him.

Both of my friends hardly know your brother and Nal, but as soon as Ali mentioned such possible outcome a month ago, both of them quitted all their affairs and as soon as they received an invitation they came to help Ali, and so did I. Try to look at their faces differently for the first time. Let love to your brother become the key to your new perception of man’s heart. With help of this key, comprehend that power of loyal love which is uniting all people, independent of their nationality, belief or class differences. See only people in them for the first time, whose colour of blood is the same red as yours.”

He embraced me and explained that they with Sandra Kon-Ananda have already drunk the coffee in the dining-car, and now I should be polite and offer my service to another guest. Greek’s name was – Ilofilion. His Russian is poor and he feels shy to talk in the surroundings which are unusual to him.

“Overcome your shyness,” Florentian added, “remember how I was leading you by the hand in the most difficult moments of your life. Imagine that those are unpleasant minutes for him, too, and help him. He’s speaking German perfectly. If you are tired of his efforts to communicate with you in your native language, ask him to tell you in German about his student life. He graduated the faculty of nature in university of Heidelberg and the one of mathematics in London.”

With these words he suggested to tidy myself up. He took a cap from the travelling-bag and put in on my head instead of the panama. Having sighed deeply, I left to become acquainted with the Greek who was no less shy than myself.

I hadn’t the honour to be in society many times during twenty years of my life. I was living with my brother for fourteen years without a separation. I was learning according to the program of the secondary school, and my brother was guiding me. That was a nomadic life. I even participated in R.’s deed, but when my brother’s regiment was transferred to the Middle East, he decided to send me to the secondary school of Petersburg where our aunt was living. He was hoping to settle me at her place, but the old puffed-up lady didn’t want such a sullen companion like myself, and my brother had to search for a boarding-school.

During my entrance examination to the sixth grade, the level of my knowledge surprised the teachers. I passed an examination of languages and mathematics perfectly and I stunned everybody with my written work about a fairy-tale in the creative work of the great writers. The subject was given from the Russian literature, and I understood it on a scale of the worldwide literature and, with the passion characteristic to me, I wrote so much that I ran out of paper. When I asked the teacher for some extra paper, he answered to me in amazement that this was the first such case during his entire life that a schoolboy would need more paper which was meant for both the rough and clean copy.

He showed my work to the principal who approached us at that time and explained to him that I had been writing my work for nearly three hours already, without stopping. The principal started reading my written work, he read over nearly every sheet of paper and asked me, looking intently.

“Are you a son of a writer?”

“No,” I answered him, “I’m the son of my brother.”

Having noticed stunned both the principal and the teacher, how the teacher could hardly restrain his laughter, I became totally lost and babbled.

“Excuse me, Mr. principal. Of course, I just told an absolute nonsense, but I don’t remember neither my father nor my mother, and as long as I remember my life – my brother was raising, educating and teaching me. I got used to seeing my father in him. That’s why I told you this so badly.”

“It is very good that you love your brother so much, but who was preparing you for your examinations? Your knowledge is so profound.”

“My brother helped me to learn according to the program of the secondary school, I didn’t have any other teachers.”

“And who is your brother?” the teacher asked me, smiling.

“He’s the officer of N. regiment,” I answered them.

They only exchanged glances, and the principal still with his amazed eyes, but smiling with his kind, oldish smile told me.

“Either you possess some phenomenal talents or your brother is an exceptional educator.”

“Or yes, my brother is not only an educator, but he’s such a scientist that there’s no other such like him,” I snapped out with enthusiasm. “Here he is!” I gave a shout after seeing the kind face of my brother through the window of the class door.

Having forgotten where I was, who was standing in front of me and why I was here, I darted out into the corridor and wound my hands round my brother’s neck. As now I remember that hot feeling which I experienced back then – the feeling of love, gratitude, grief before our future separation, joy of such usual caress…

Having undone my hands in silence, my brother stepped into the class, drew himself up in front of the principal and told him.

“Your excellency, forgive my brother. During my nomadic life I succeeded to give him that little knowledge that I possessed, but I failed to teach him good manners and discipline. I hope that your lucid management will correct this mistake of mine.”

The principal stretched out his hand to him, introduced him to the teacher who was examining him curiously and said a lot of compliments about the level of my knowledge and my excellent abilities, but the first splinter showed up in my heart. I understood that I brought a disgrace upon my brother. I remember how he always used to repeat to me that I had to be reserved and tactful, to go deep into every situation, always to perceive where I was and who was in front of me, and only then to act.

All of it, this episode from my childhood rose in my memory, summoned by the same spasm of my heart like back then. I met a stranger for the first time, who became dear and close to me like a real brother, - and once again I was feeling like an unexperienced child who didn’t know how to approach a

stranger, who didn’t know what to say to him and how to behave, so that I would fulfil Florentian’s wish and make him happy with my behaviour… I was standing in the corridor, not bringing myself to knock upon the door of the adjacent compartment, and as if lit up the lightning this first childish lesson of tact flashed in my head.

Having pressed my lips together, I remembered the lines from Ali’s letter: “I will overcome” and I gave a knock upon the door.

“Come in,” an unfamiliar strange voice uttered.

I opened the door and I almost ran back to Florentian, as back then when I ran from the class to my brother.

Two tall men were sitting on the sofas one opposite to another, but I could see only two pairs of the eyes: the eyes of the dervish, which had stuck in my memory from our first meeting – the eyes- stars, and the attentive, nearly black eyes of the Greek, which remembered me of the piercing look of old Ali.

“Let me become acquainted with you according to all rules of politeness,” Sandra Kon- Ananda told me, while he was standing up. “Here’s my friend Ilofilion.”

Ananda squeezed my hand, and I bowed to the Greek, modestly rumpling my cap in my hand. I snapped out like a bad schoolboy would do with his by heart learnt lesson.

“My friend Florentian sent me to you. Would you like to drink a cup of coffee with me in the dining-car? I can accompany you there.”

Suddenly the Greek’s eyes stopped pricking me with his awls, a humour lit up in them. He rose quickly, squeezed my hand and spoke up in Russian with a strong accent. He must have been choosing his words, but he was speaking absolutely correctly.

“I think that in this place birds of a feather flock together. You are also timid like I am. Well, then let’s come together. Of course, we don’t find two and we’ll lose four, but anyway both of us are fitted one for another, and probably, until we decide to order our breakfast, - everything will be eaten from under our very nose, and we’ll stay hungry.”

He made such sad face and then laughed so merrily that I forgot all my shyness and, not holding anymore, I started rocking with laughter, asserting him that I’ll be even impudent if needed, but I will feed him to satiety.

We left the compartment, accompanied with a merry laughter of Kon-Ananda.

When we entered the dining-car, I quickly found a small table in the nonsmokers’ area, ordered the breakfast and tried to occupy my new acquaintance by addressing him in German. He answered me willingly and asked me if I had been in Greece. I answered him regretfully that I hadn’t been anywhere else except Moscow, Petersburg, Northern Caucasus and K. where I had been for the first time and for a very short time.

Our coffee was brought, and I, by taking advantage of the right to eat in silence, was observing the Greek secretly, but intently.

Apparently, at the moment destiny was rewarding me so plentifully for my monotonous childhood and youth by sending me so many events and people – they were not only exceptional, but they didn’t even fit in my consciousness. It seemed to me that it would suffice to put on the head of this Greek a

wreath of roses, to throw a Greek chiton on his shoulders, and here’s a model standing in front of you: one could shape a god of Olympus, a king of ancient times, a prophet from him, but being in modern clothes he surpassed the boundaries of my consciousness. His European suit didn’t fit him, German language didn’t sound in his lips – some Italian or Spanish dialect would have suited him best. The harmony of regular features of his face wasn’t worsen neither by his rather low forehead with the thrusted up elevations above his eye-brows which were thin, curved and long – until his very temples, nor by the tenderness of his skin near his black blue hair, nor his hardly revealed moustache… One could really say about him: “Beautiful like a God.”

However, he didn’t have that charm with which Florentian was attracting me so much. If I wasn’t feeling any formal obstacles between myself and Florentian, although I understood the difference that existed between us and his enormous superiority when compared to myself, then Ilofilion seemed to me to be retired into the circle of his own thoughts. As though he had fenced himself off me, and it seemed that no one could manage to penetrate into these thoughts unless he wanted it himself.

Having waited for the next stop, by walking along the platform, we went to our carriage. The Greek thanked me for my attention shown and added that I was a very pleasant guide, because I could be silent and I wasn’t curious.

I answered him that I spent my childhood close to my brother who was very serious and rather silent, and that my youth didn’t spoil me with such meetings where anyone could be interested in me, so on the contrary as it seemed to him, by being very curious I learned to think to myself in silence as he did.

He gave a smile and noticed that mathematicians – if they are really devoted to their science

  • are mostly demure persons and they can go so deeply into the logical course of things in their thoughts that they perceive even the universe as a stretched out geometrical plan, so they are frightened and feel shy when they are facing a vanity, a tasteless and unconsidered expression of thoughts or a noisy jabber instead of a really deep thought out conversation which should prevail among people. Then they are escaping the crowd and the racket of the cities, which is alien to the logic of nature’s life.

He also asked me if I liked a country-side and how I was imagining my future life. I answered him that until now my entire life flew past by sitting on the secondary school and student benches. I told him laughing how I performed during my entrance examinations. I also told him about my first sadness – the separation with my brother and my life in Petersburg, and then I said to him as though drawing a conclusion to myself of a certain period of my life.

“Now I’m in my second year of the university, and the trouble is the same – I’m a mathematician, but the studies haven’t yet revealed any understanding what I would like to choose in my life, where I would like to live, and I still don’t grasp at all what place I’m taking in the universe.”

We were standing in the corridor, and my companion proposed me to drop in at his compartment. I didn’t even notice how our conversation acquired a warm and friendly nature. I wasn’t feeling shy anymore of the strictness of my new acquaintance, on the contrary, I was feeling as though a rest and relief from him. My thoughts were flowing calmly, I wanted to find out more about the universities of Berlin and London – it was simply great to sit with my new friend.

And at the same time I wanted to cast a glance at Florentian and to tell him that I didn’t disgrace him by fulfilling his assignment, that the Greek was really an interesting person.

I already wanted to tell him that I would drop in at my compartment for a minute when the door opened and Kon-Ananda entered. He explained to us that Florentian fell asleep and if it was interesting for me to talk to Ilofilion, then he would be glad to protect the sleep of my dear friend.

I already knew well what kind of sleep that was and agreed with pleasure to exchange the places with Ananda for some time.

I and Ilofilion continued our interrupted conversation. The more he was talking the more I was surprised by his knowledge, observation, and most importantly – by the power of his general conclusions.

I also was thinking that I had some synthetic talents, I knew logic perfectly and was reading quite a lot. And now, compared to my companion’s expression of thought and language, all my so called amazing talents seemed to be a pitiful rubbish, dumped in the common pile of a flea market.

“I’m feeling so strange today, as if I had entered a new university and heard a row of the most interesting lectures.” And I asked him “Perhaps, you could tell me more about the students’ lives, the level of their education and about their interests.”

And again our conversation was flowing, besides my companion drew me a parallel between the students from Greece, Germany, Paris and London, because he had an opportunity to observe all of them in his own time.

I was devouring every word. He was speaking so simply and at the same time so picturesquely that it seemed to me as though I was travelling with him myself and watching everything with my own eyes.

A passionate desire for knowledge, a wish to see the world, the people, to get to know their customs aroused an ecstasy in me. I lost the perception of time and space, I forgot that I acquired my whole education only thanks to my brother, a poor Russian officer, and I decided that I would certainly see the entire world, I wouldn’t leave a single little corner unvisited.

“Would you like to travel?” I heard I.’s question.

As if I had fallen from the moon, only now I could understand that I wouldn’t be able to travel the world, but I even didn’t have enough means to travel my native Russia, because I was a poor person and up to now I could earn only pennies thanks to my lessons and translations.

“I would like to travel very much,” I sighed, “but I don’t have much luck with travelling. Having graduated the secondary school and entered the university, only now after five years of separation with my brother, I got ready for a journey to Asia to visit him. I was dreaming about seeing that new world to me, another nation – and here’s how it all ended. And I even lost my brother,” I added, silently remembering with what joy I was going to the distant K. to see him and with what pain I was coming back from there.

I. bent down by me, looked into my eyes extremely tenderly and told me silently.

“I sympathize with you from the bottom of my heart, dear friend. I’ve also gone through the same moment of my life when in one day I lost everything and everyone whom I loved, but my state was much worse than yours, because I was unable to help anyone from my family. I was severely wounded and when I regained my consciousness I could see only cold corpses of my family members, and everything what was connected to my hopes, ideals, aspirations, searching of truth and honour – all of that was also

rooted out of my heart and turned into ashes, because the murderers seemed to be hypocrite fanatics who were pretending to be friends…”

Hi was silent for a while and then he continued with even more sincere voice.

“Your situation is much better than that segment of my life. You haven’t lost your brother yet, you’re only separated from him. You can still help him and you’re already started doing so. When I dropped in at Ali’s on a short visit five years ago, I became acquainted with your brother. Ali told me about the pure life of the great self-educated scientist, about his selfless devotion for the freedom of his nation. I remember how I was moved by such uncharacteristic features of the Russian officer. Already during our first meeting I could perceive so much in his wonderful face and at once I became his loyal friend. Even from the observations of your short life you know that the characters who are consistent and balanced are unable to give others only a part of their heart or friendship. We used to see each other with your brother back then. That was me who used to supplement his excellent library by sending him a rarer book. It is amazing how a nomad officer’s life didn’t prevent him from carrying with himself the chests loaded with books everywhere he was going. When he settled in K., then he really collected a real value – the library of a wise man. It is so sad that everything was lost…”

He was silent for a while again, then he moved a little nearer to me and added.

“I know your state from my own experience. What I’m going to tell you now, I decided to say to you only because I’ve passed myself all stages of human sadness which you’re experiencing right now. One shouldn’t think, as the youth loves to, that the whole life’s value is its offered personal happiness. Don’t think that the essence of your current state is the suffering and the dangers which you’re experiencing because of your brother. Reject your personal feelings and thoughts about yourself. Think only about the safety of your brother, about that your action and energy which you have to dedicate to him now and in the future, so that he would come out of all dangers alive and free. Fanatics and the czar’s government are scheming dozens of traps for him. They don’t love very much the intellectual officers. If you didn’t meet your brother…”

“What,” I gave a shout out of horror, “you think that he’s dead?”

“Oh no, I’m sure that he’s alive and he’s in Petersburg already,” I. answered to me. “I’m talking only about one of the possible chances that now you won’t be able to see your brother and that he’ll be unable to take you with him.”

“Oh, how terrible that would be! We haven’t spent even two months together during all those five years, only those rare meetings when he used to visit me in Petersburg for short periods of time. I was hoping so much. Finally my dream came true and I had to spend all summer with him, even a part of autumn – and I’m alone again…”

Once again I was devoured by sadness, irritation, protest. It seemed to me that some people have interfered between me and my brother, attracting him to the interests of a foreign nation, while I, his brother-son, was abandoned, forgotten and unwanted. The whirls of passions, a storm was breaking my heart! Jealousy like a wild horse was dragging my thoughts from one event to another, from one kind of people to another one…

My friend was silent. I was silent for a long time, too. Finally my irritation started settling down. I stopped wringing my hands, and my loyalty to my brother, my gratitude for all his love and worries overcame the difficult thoughts of my egoism and despair.

I remembered my brother’s face on the road, below the big tree, when Ali landed Nal from the coach. I was surprised by that face of a stranger back then – of the man of an exceptional will, even his eye-brows had stretched themselves into one line. That wasn’t my kind brother whom I knew, that was a stranger whose flow of energy was sweeping everything on its way like a lava. I was only surprised back then and I didn’t draw any conclusion which, of course, a more experienced person would have drawn, or perhaps, the uncommonness and speed of the following events buried that conclusion in my consciousness and only now it came to light for me: I understood that I didn’t know my brother at all, that everything what he gave to me, the total orphan, was only a little part of his consciousness, that he was trying to make up for the misery of my childhood spent without love of my mother…

And suddenly I burst into tears like a small child. I was feeling deceived by the wonderful illusion which I had created myself and because of that I became even more lonesome. My brother-father was that person who belonged only to me, whose only worry was me, whose only meaning of life was also me.

Up until this moment I was imagining that he also, like myself, used to start and finish his day with thoughts about me and that he was living only thinking of a possibility to meet me some day and never separate again in his life.

Now, while fighting against my own illusion, I could also see another person in my brother, a stranger, I could perceive a row of his interests which weren’t related to me, his solidarity with other people whom I hardly knew.

For the first time the following question rose in my consciousness: “Who is a brother at all? Who is the real brother? What role the blood kinship is playing in people’s lives? What is bringing people together more: harmony of their thoughts, feelings, interests or the fact that they were given birth by the same mother?”

I couldn’t feel the river of my tears, but now it already wasn’t a passionate lament of my jealous despair, now everything rose in absolutely another importance: as if I had buried my childhood and its beauty; as if I had rooted my old habits out of myself to perceive people only like a support to myself. As if I was entering the new life of a mature man, which was still unknown to me, in which the words “mother”, “father” and tenderness connected to them were drawing to the second plan; or maybe it simply was only a sweet dream about the family which I didn’t have a chance to know during all my life, the family in which I could become a support myself.

Now it is difficult to put into words all those experiences of the youth, but apparently the perception of how young, how childish and unexperienced in the matters of life, how uneducated I still was, also added a drop of bitterness.

I was trying to suppress my tears with all my strength. I was feeling ashamed of weeping so relentlessly next to a stranger. Only when my thought from remorse turned to my brother, I remembered Ali’s letter once again and Florentian’s words uttered to me not long ago. I mopped away my tears and, not lifting my eyes to my companion, I told him silently.

“Excuse me, I lost my self-control.”

I was waiting for a usual, perhaps even friendly sympathy, but what I heard showed me once again that I absolutely didn’t know people.

“I was crying as bitterly as you are now many times. Believe me, it isn’t easy for anybody to part from his childhood. The illusion of beauty and love created by our own imagination is torturing us for

as long as we gain a victory over it. Only then our illusory desires to live in the dream of imaginary beauty clear away when the real beauty which is hiding within ourselves comes to life. All blows of grief, losses and disappointment are teaching us to understand that there’s no happiness in the conditional illusions. Happiness exists only in a free and voluntary work which doesn’t depend on any praise or reward that are being poured upon us for doing it – in that work which we are carrying into our daily routine as an activity of love and joy by dedicating it to people’s welfare and happiness.”

I. embraced me and started telling me the story of his life.

Having come to himself after a long fainting-fit, he saw that he was lying in the pool of blood among his friends and family members. Everyone who’s been with him since the very start of his childhood was dead. He didn’t know neither where to go nor what to do – all his family was killed. He remembered that an old nurse was living in the mountains not far away from this valley where the house of his parents was standing. Of course, he didn’t know which political party she was in sympathy with, and the yesterday’s like-minded people – today’s enemies could have killed her, too, as well as several families from this valley.

There was not time for thinking. I. descended by the sea, took a swim, put someone’s clothes on, which were dropped or lost on shore and moved along a solitary path towards another side of the island to his nurse, while shedding his tears.

“I won’t trouble you with the details of that wandering,” I. continued. “I will only mention briefly that with the help of the little old woman and her money I boarded the ship which was going to Rome where her son was living, a gifted jeweller, as she told me herself. I must have died on the ship out of grief and hunger if Kon-Ananda whom you know already hadn’t found me. Having lost all my strengths due to fever, losing my consciousness again and again, I heard an Italian talk over me, which I knew from my Italian nurse. A young, clear and charming voice was speaking.

“Whe is he, Nika? A boy is lying here.”

Another hoarse and rough voice, as though with reluctance, was straining his words through his teeth.

“It’s not a boy. It’s an ordinary boozy drunkard.”

I didn’t have any strength, although I wanted to give a cry from the bottom of my heart that I wasn’t drunk, that I was dying out of hunger and cold, and that I was asking for help. I had already been ready to die, and this hope of salvation which flashed and disappeared seemed to me like only one more jeering of destiny. The heavy steps moved away by taking the grumble of the hoarse voice with them. I thought that another voice would vanish in the distance, too, when suddenly a strong and tender hand lifted my head a little, and a grievous “oh”, like a sigh, escaped someone’s lips.

My weakness didn’t allow me to open my eyes. The stranger who had bent over me gave a scream to his attendant. The attendant again came to me unwillingly, he could hardly walk. An insistent tone of the young voice, in which an unshakable will could be heard changed the mood of the grumbler in a flash.

“Bring the stretcher right now and call the doctor, old sluggard! So this is how you were protecting our belongings in the hold that you didn’t even see how a man was dying here.”

“It is my fault, master. This pilferer must have showed here only now. I’ve been checking the boxes all the time, all of them were in order.”

“Stop pattering nonsense. What pilferer is he? He’s a sickly boy! Get the stretcher and the doctor as soon as possible! Do you want to feel my stick again?”

Where his tired legs were gone? “Understood”, the servant uttered only this with his sonorous voice and ran like I had never run even when I was healthy.

“Poor boy”, I heard the same sincere voice; and how tender that voice was, it reached my heart like a mother’s caress, while his tears burning like a fire were pouring on my cheeks.

“Do you hear me, poor boy?”

I wanted to answer him, but only a moan escaped my parched lips: I was unable to move my tongue, it was as though lifeless, rough, as a foreign body that didn’t want to obey my will.

“I will save you, I will save you at any price”, the stranger continued. “My uncle is a doctor…”

But I didn’t hear anything else, I fell down into an abyss…

I came to myself in a spacious and bright room. The windows were opened. There was a soft bed and clean bedding, so I thought for a while that I was at home. My memory had carried away my entire experienced terror, and I was waiting for my mother to come and scold me for my laziness. Being a Greek, she was in the habit of talking to me in German, because her nurse was talking like this.

I was still waiting for her sweet “Lolion”, but for some reason she was lingering. Then I decided to scare her slightly, as I used to do it in my early childhood by shouting at the top of my voice, and she would pretend to be very frightened, she would put her hands pleadingly and speak to me in German jokingly.

“Oh, mister hunter, the crocodile will indeed devour me. Please don’t waste your time for your scream, kill it as soon as possible.”

I gave a shout with all my might, as it seemed to me, but only a small voice came out, which was similar to a prolonged moan.

“Well, he’s come to himself,” I could hear a voice over me. “Uncle, you are not a doctor, but a wonder-worker.”

With these words, two men who were absolutely unknown to me came to my bed. Once of them, as you’ve already understood was Kon-Ananda, whom I don’t need to describe to you, while the other man was still not old, but he was much older than him. His kind-hearted face, his kind brownish eyes and some nondescript nobility, his manners which I hadn’t seen before revealed to me instantly that he was a man of aristocracy. One can read about such men only in novels, but usually a man of middle-class cannot reach them. I understood that I was seeing a nobleman for the first time.

“So, my friend, now we can be sure that you’ll recover completely,” the nobleman told me in Italian. “Could you tell me, what day is today?”

I was looking at him, not understanding anything. My memory hadn’t yet come back to me. He poured some liquid into the glass, which was smelling sweet and strong, and he helped me to drink it. I looked at Ananda’s face, but of course, I didn’t recognize my rescuer. I was drowsy again.

When I woke up again, it seemed to me that a woman was sitting by my bed. I thought that she was my mother. This time I remembered everything about my previous waking up and I wasn’t surprised at all when I saw Ananda, I only began to speak in German unintentionally.

“I saw my mother next to me. Why did she leave?”

“She got tired very much,” his answer followed. “If you agree, I will give you something to eat. Although what you will get cannot be called a dinner, but the doctor is very strict and he allowed only thin gruel and pap to eat for you.”

He helped me to sit up in my bed, and I almost fainted away, although he was trying to help me as carefully as possible. He quickly gave me a gulp of wine. He had to feed me with the spoon…

Such life continued for about a month. When I used to ask him about my mother, she either was sleeping or tired, or she was gone for shopping. To my question whose room was here, he always used to answer: “Yours”. Once I asked him why my nurse wasn’t coming to visit me. He answered that if I remembered her address, then I could write her a letter, so she could come.

“How could I not remember her address?” I was indignant. “This is the same as though I wouldn’t know my mother’s address.”

I dictated him my nurse’s address instantly and asked her to come tomorrow. He gave a laugh, saying that if he succeeds to get a flying carpet, then he would fly himself to visit her. I couldn’t understand anything again.

One more week passed. The nobleman doctor visited me several times and he allowed me to get up. That was the real comedy when I was trying to stand up for the first time with the help of Ananda. I was fifteen years old and tall, and now I grew up so much during my illness that even the doctor was surprised.

“My friend, well, how is it possible to grow so much?” he was laughing. “If you keep doing so, then nobody, even your nurse won’t recognize you.”

This time I somehow managed to perceive that there was quite a lot of time gone, but still there was no nurse, my mother was still hiding. I looked at the doctor, but he, as though not seeing my pleading look, helped me to put the dressing-gown on, and both of them with Ananda brought me to the window. The high arm-chair with the foot was standing here in such a way that I could admire the view behind the window while I was sitting in it.

Not taking my eyes off, I was looking at the sea that extended in the distance and at the garden that was going down its coast. Not recognizing the landscape and not being able to perceive anything, I asked the doctor why I was living here. Our home was in the valley, while I had never been here, high in the mountains and I didn’t know these places.

The doctor’s face was very serious, although it was absolutely calm, too. He took my hand and he was holding it in such a way as though he would have counted my pulse, but I was certain that he wasn’t counting it, he wanted to transfer a part of his energy and cheerfulness to me.

“If you want to see your nurse,” he told me silently while stroking my hair with his free hand, “I can ask her to come. I only want to tell you, my boy, that you are almost a man already, while your nurse is weak and old. It seems that she will have to tell you about something unpleasant. Try to remain calm, think how to make this difficult moment easier for her. Forget about your pain if it stuns you, try to control your tears with all your strength, so that the old woman would see that she has raised the real man and not the milksop with the trousers.”

He turned towards the door, commanded somebody to bring the nurse and kept stroking my hair while speaking to me calmly.

“Everything in life is changing, my boy. There may be not a single moment of respite in a man’s life. All sorts of affairs and meetings are forcing the man to move, in this way he’s growing and changing continuously. Everything what consciousness is presenting like a logical thought, everything is changing and broadening together with the coming wisdom. If the man fails to accept the changing circumstances wisely, fails to become the power that controls them – then they destroy him, like cold destroys the mushroom’s life, like drought destroys the mould’s life. And of course, the man who fails – by changing himself – to carry the life of new circumstances on his shoulders easily and simply, will become only like that mushroom or mould, and not the radiance of his thought which is growing in creativity and hardening itself in fight.”

Not taking my eyes off him, I was listening to him greedily and drawing his every word to myself. His kindness which was spurting out of his face and his hand which was stroking my hair tenderly were as though giving me love and fortitude. All of a sudden I understood that there was a friend next to me, such a grand friend that his hand was the support for me not only during this moment; it was so strong that even my entire life would fail to cause trouble to that flow of love which was burning within that man.

I was flooded with some respectful and refreshing joy, gratitude, the feeling of courage and self-confidence which I hadn’t yet experienced before. I pressed the hand that was stroking me tenderly to my lips, kissed it and answered him.

“I will always try to be strong. Oh, how I would like to be like you – so kind, intelligent and strong. I’m feeling exceptionally well being next to you. As though I’ve grown up and changed.”

He embraced me, pressed to his heart, kissed my forehead and told me.

“Be strong now. Exactly how you’ll overcome this meeting with your nurse, so you’ll start your new life.”

After saying this he left me, and in a moment my nurse came into the room.

She was an old woman already, but whom I was seeing now were total ruins. She also was surprised by the change that had happened within me.

Not even having time to come to me, she only clapped her hands, gave a groan, began to cry, knelt on the foot of my arm-chair, grabbed my hands and started weeping so much that the fortitude in my heart was melting like a wax.

Although I had grown up in the country where people often used to reveal their feelings with cries and gestures, although from my childhood I could remember perfectly the pure Italian exaltation that was characteristic to my nurse, which would catch fire suddenly like a match and then it would go out suddenly, too, but this time I could hear in her lament so much heartbreak and despair that I couldn’t find any words of comfort for her. Like a refrain between her tears now and again the following words stood out: “My poor boy! My dear orphan, you don’t have even your own motherland.”

Some obscure memories started oppressing me. My thoughts were spinning sluggishly and with difficulty like a cumbersome millstone. Up to now I can remember that unusually strange feeling in my head, which I never experienced again. It seemed to me that I could simply feel some purely physical movement that was taking place in my cerebral hemispheres, which I could perceive like my thoughts moving with difficulty. Apparently, all blood from my heart flowed into my head; I felt a stinging pain in my heart like a prick of a long needle, and all of a sudden, like in the fire of a flash, I could remember everything at once.

I don’t know if I fainted in that moment, but I could understand clearly that in my memory all my experiences floated past one after another…

When I could already align my thoughts again, I could see Ananda standing next to me, and only now I could understand that it was him who was whispering in the hold of the steamer: “I will save you, boy.”

Ananda was looking at me focussed and he gave me some kind of a drink. Having drunk it, I told him.

“Thank you. Thank you for saving my life. No, I don’t need it,” I pushed away his hand with another medicine. “No medicine can cure me now, but only that example of your and your uncle’s love and care of the stranger who was hurled away by fate, which I found here. I don’t understand how I could forget everything. I remembered only when my nurse’s voice and her tears took me back to my childhood, when I heard that I didn’t have even my motherland – then I could remember everything at once.”

I still was unable to summon up my strength for a long time; my breathing was so heavy, as though a short breath of asthma had pressed my lungs. Ananda persuaded me to drink some drops, he put a pinch of yellow and dry grass into the plate and set it on fire. Soon a strong aroma pervaded and I was feeling better.

“Where am I now? Is that your house?” I asked Ananda.

“This is Sicily,” he answered to me. “You’re safe here. This is the doctor’s house. The slaughter of the revolted parties in your motherland continues and the misfortunes are falling down on innocent people. The fanatic politicians are killing not only one another, but even the foreigners, and this promises the war for your entire country. You can find out about the details from the newspapers which I’ve saved for you. You’ve been ill for more than two months. Every day during the first month my uncle was afraid that he would be unable to snatch you from the clutches of death. Only during the second month of your illness he announced that the danger was over, and two weeks ago he fixed the exact day when you recover your consciousness. The loss of your memory could affect the entire course of your thoughts. In doctor’s opinion, the meeting with your nurse had to be the turning point, what has happened exactly.”

Then he told me how they took me to the cabin of the steamer, how both of them, he and his uncle in turns kept watching me by my bedside, how many times in my ravings I was telling all my story up to the moment of my boarding of the ship. Now he asked me how I had gotten to the hold of the steamer, but I didn’t remember, or perhaps I simply didn’t know what that hold was. I only remembered that I was looking for a peaceful place where I could hide from people and cry my disaster out.

“Then my story is absolutely simple,” I. continued. “I won’t be telling you of how many times the storms of despair, resentment and hopeless heartbreak were changing within me, how many times I was breaking the hearts of my benefactors and nurse with my relentless lament. I only will stress that not a single of such attacks of my irritation gave rise to any resentment or reproach of my new friends. Gradually, the atmosphere of constant tenderness and respectable culture prompted me to step into the self-control. I could see and understand clearly how uneducated I was, how indelicate my behaviour was, because I was disturbing the quiet rhythm of lives of my rescuers, which were always filled with the scientific work of the doctor and Ananda’s activity by his thesis.

I could already walk in the garden, I even used to go down by the sea, but the doctor didn’t allow me to read yet, saying that if I can spend at least one week without any tears, then he would give me

a book. My wish to start learning and to read was so big that I showed my character and I didn’t demonstrate my pain publicly, but only entrusted it to my pillow at night.

On one of the red-letter days the doctor commanded to harness the horses, and we left for a ride, so I could admire Sicily. The nature here was like a real fairy-tale.

While we were riding, the doctor asked me if I knew well the history of my country. To my shame, I had to admit that I didn’t know it at all. When we came back, the doctor took me to his study. There were so many books here that I even sat down out of amazement. Not only the walls were built all around with them, but the shelves of the books were formed along the entire room from the ceiling down to the floor, leaving only the narrow corridors where in each of them a light collapsible ladder was standing. In one of these corridors the doctor took the history of Ancient Greece from the shelf. It was written in German.

My studies started from that day on. Each of my new friends used to find a possibility to break away from his occupation, so they could help me. I was trying with all my might, and my old nurse had to complain of her solitude; only that would make me break away from the books and lessons and go to the sea with her.

My talents for mathematics were revealed, and jokingly I was nicknamed Euclid. Both of my guardians were calling me like that, only my nurse kept calling me Lolion.

I was totally cured during my six months of work and peaceful life. I grew up even more, but I remained as thin as I was before and the heartbreak kept eating my heart out.

During one of our dinners the doctor told us that he was preparing himself to go to Rome in one week where he would spend a month, then he would go to Berlin with his affairs.

“Would you like to come with me as my secretary?” he addressed me with the question.

Being in doubt, I took a look at Ananda, he gave me a tender smile, but kept silent.

“What is stopping you?” the doctor asked me again. “Don’t you really want to look around the world about which you are reading so intensely at the moment?”

“I want to see it all very much, especially Rome. Besides, I would be happy if I could show gratitude to you for everything that you’ve done for me, but I’m afraid that I wouldn’t be able to be such secretary whom you need. Anyway I will try to be your diligent and honest servant. I’m also worried how my nurse is going to sustain this separation, because she doesn’t have anybody except me, right?”

“She has a son in Rome. We will take her there. You will already orient yourself in the itineraries of the trains on your way back, so you can come to Rome and take her here again. Make up your mind. One day you will have to step into life anyway and to acquire a corresponding education. You will be able to choose the university that you like during this journey, and you don’t even have to worry about your future now.”

Wishing to end the story of my life in a few words – only happy words from now on – I will add that in a few days the doctor, me and my nurse left to Rome. We left the old woman in Rome. You can imagine yourself what I experienced by getting to know this city, its monuments, galleries, museums… While I was running about in the city and fulfilling the doctor’s assignments, I was thanking my nurse in every of my steps, because she had taught me Italian language.

Not two months, but half year flew past while we were travelling from one place to another. I took care of the program of Berlin’s secondary schools and received it, so I could continue my regular

studies. Every day I was getting up at six o’clock in the morning and I was preparing myself for my examinations for all seven classes at once.

Once I revealed this idea to the doctor. He verified my knowledge and he was happy with it. He recommended me to come back home, to work with Ananda for a while and to take a school-leaving certificate examinations at once in Heidelberg where Ananda would maintain his thesis and he would be living there for at least a year.

I accepted this proposal with pleasure. We went together to Vienna and then we parted there. I came back to Rome alone via Venice, while the doctor decided to spend a year or two in his estate in Hungary, having explained to me that I, Ananda and my nurse would spend the summer at his place.

My life has been passing like this from that time on. I was learning a lot and had time to see lots of the world: I was travelling in Egypt, India, I saw all kinds of wise men and scientists, artists and painters, but I didn’t have a chance to meet a more superior man that the doctor. Accidentally, one of his assignments brought me together with Ali and Florentian, in whom I noticed the knowledge, power, kindness and honour that was equal to my great friend’s. The strong friendship that was uniting them among themselves opened up for me and Ananda, too.

Now in my story I’m proceeding to that period of my friendship with Ali when I came to K. to stay at his place for a while and when I became acquainted with your brother. Of course, you know your brother better than I do. I can only add that his power of spirit, his will, his love to man, his great mind and knowledge raise this self-taught officer higher than all wise men and scientists whom I’ve met, and he’s almost equal to those great friends of mine about whom I’ve just been talking to you.

Don’t feel shy of me. I’ve endured all my sufferings myself, I understood the abyss of mankind’s grief, and the heart which has blown in its disaster once cannot condemn another man or feel burdened by his tears and troubles. I’ve learnt to see my brother in another man.

Our conversation has been continuing for a long time more. We missed our breakfast, and now we were already invited for dinner…

I forgot to think about myself, about my life. I.’s picturesque story when it seemed that he was striking every episode like a sculptor with his chisel – so precise and clear were his words and thoughts

  • drew me into the vortex of another boy’s life, who was much more unfortunate that I was.

I. offered me to wash myself and to have our dinner. I didn’t object, understanding that now it would be easiest for both of us to sit down at the dinner’s table in silence for a while. When we came back to the carriage, we found Ananda and Florentian in the corridor, who were having a chat with some travellers.

I was so glad seeing Florentian, as though I hadn’t seen him for the whole year. I understood once again how I got attached to him with the entire heat of my childish heart during this short period of time. He extended both of his hands to me with joy, which I squeezed immediately.

“How I missed you,” I uttered him merrily.

“And I thought I would ingratiate myself with you, because I hasn’t yet learned to sleep according to your taste,” he answered me merrily, too. “Only you aren’t very polite with respect to I. I hope, Euclid, that you haven’t tired my little brother with mathematics?”

“No, no, your friend I. helped me so much with his conversation that I’ve become ten years wiser instantly.”

Everybody gave a laugh. Florentian embraced me by my shoulders, put the comic expression of the lord Benedict and asked me.

“Is it possible that in my company you kept standing in one place or even grew stupid?”

Once again I felt how one should follow every of one’s words. I gave a sigh and, not knowing what to answer him, I turned my eyes towards I. He stated immediately that everybody knew well his unique florentian talent to cavil at every word, and that not without reason he, Euclid, was a better mathematician than he was and that one time he would somehow catch Florentian himself, maybe even in a subtler way.

I proposed to organize a dinner for Florentian in the compartment. Hungry Ananda responded to that especially joyfully. I hurried away to demonstrate my administrative skill.

Soon the best vegetarian dishes which could be made in the train were served. Although me and I. had already had our dinner, but we didn’t refuse to dine now.

We had to go one more night to Moscow, and in the morning I could already hope to see my brother. My thoughts migrated to the joy of upcoming meeting so quickly, I was imagining so vividly with what new perception I would be looking at my brother now that I broke away from my surroundings completely, I wasn’t seeing or hearing anything what was going on around me.

All of a sudden some kind of moisture on my hands which I had put on the little table made me to give a start. That was Florentian who moistened the corner of the napkin in the water and put it on my hands. Having come to myself, I looked round and was instantly dazzled. Three pairs of eyes were looking at me – they had totally different colours and forms, but they were looking at me all absolutely intently. I was so embarrassed when all of them laughed that I even blushed up to the roots of my hair, I got irritated and nearly angry, but the laughter of my friends was so kind-hearted – I was afraid that I looked funny to them by being so dreamy – that I burst out laughing, too, remembering that I was Lovushka

  • the catcher of the crows.

“Your dreams about Moscow, Lovushka,” Florentian was talking to me, “are rightful and needed very much. Only you should be disposed that your goal isn’t your personal luck to meet your brother, but to help him.”

I was surprised once again that Florentian could read my thoughts. When I told him that I was surprised at his ability to answer my unvoiced thoughts, he ensured me that there wasn’t anything special here, like his night conversation with the train’s conductor. And he told me that his wife was alive, that he received an answer to his telegram in Samara.

I felt how shallow my attention towards other people was in comparison to the deep attentiveness of Florentian. I had already forgotten both the conductor and his troubles.

A conversation among the three of my new acquaintances started about our future actions in Moscow. Florentian was sure that our stay there would be burdened by the fanatics from K., that all their efforts would be directed to catch and force me to tell where my brother was and if he kidnapped Nal. He was sure that the persecutors didn’t believe the legend about the people who were burnt down in my brother’s house, or they burnt down somebody there themselves on occasion out of revenge. Therefore, he was proposing all of us to stop at a single hotel. I and Florentian should take one of the rooms, while Ananda and Euclid had to stay from both of our sides. He told me strictly that I shouldn’t go anywhere alone and in the hotel I should be only together with one of them three. I didn’t quite understand how any disaster could threaten me, but I promised to follow Florentian’s instructions. The time until the night

passed unnoticed. I. told us something from his travelling in India, while Ananda remembered a terrible night when he became a witness of a massacre in S. and where he succeeded to save one of the persecuted women whom they intended to kill with stones.

The night came. I was feeling tired from many new impressions and thoughts, so I went to bed earlier than others. I woke up, because Florentian was awakening me and I heard the words that surprised me, although it seemed to me that I had gone to bed only an hour ago.

“We are approaching Moscow.”