Anton, a Young Boy his Friend & the Russian Revolution
Book review by Bernelda Becker, St. Louis Park, Minnesota
Eisler, Dale. "Anton, a Young Boy his Friend & the Russian Revolution." Regina, Saskatchewan: Your Nickel's Worth Publishing, 2010.
A PAINFUL REMINISCINCE
When a person reaches the ripe old age of 82, you would think the days of their youth would consist of fond memories. And there are those. But I had a restless night after I read the book, Anton.
You see, this book is written through the eyes of a young German child who lived in the Ukraine through the days of the Bolshevik Revolution. Anton witnessed his father’s cold-blooded murder. His mother struggled to feed her ten children while collectivization took place. Most of the food grown in her garden had to be given to the Party. The book is very graphic, and does not leave much to the imagination.
When I went to bed that night I thought back to my youth—of the many times my parents moved, and I’m ashamed to say I cannot remember being of much help to my mother. I can’t even remember the actual moves, except for the time we moved to Detroit. I must have helped – but I can’t remember it.
Just as Anton’s life revolved around his childish world, his dislike of the watered down borscht his mother was able to put on the table, thus I, too, in my childish way, was more concerned that once again I had to leave friends at the school I’d been attending, and be “that new kid” in a new school.
I had no concern for the problems my parents were having, or the why of all those moves when jobs were almost impossible to find. It never dawned on my youthful brain that my parents had feelings too. I wonder just how my dad must have felt in 1937 when he had to auction all his belongings to pay off creditors, and rent out the farmland and buildings for $5.00 an acre. He came from a reasonably well-off family. His self-esteem must have plummeted. My mother, too, had to give up the sense of stability she’d had living in a nice home after a childhood of poverty. I always talk about having attended thirteen schools in twelve years. That also means my mom tore up stakes almost that many times, moving out of one old farmhouse she had cleaned up into yet another dirty one, never feeling part of another new community, lonely, wondering what would come next. It means my father had lost one job and found another, no easy task in those days.
My father became ill and was hospitalized for several months in 1945. Mom had to move off the farm where dad had been working. She moved her family to the nearby town of Groton and found a job at the Bluebird Café. I can’t remember the move at all. Didn’t I help? How selfish could I have been if I didn’t? She moved us to Aberdeen that fall. Who helped her? How did she find the house she rented? How did she bring dad home from the hospital? Did we have a car? I can’t remember.
Later, she found work at the Milwaukee Depot Restaurant. We moved to an apartment close to there. I cannot recall the move at all. I can’t believe I didn’t help. I seem to have totally blocked out these memories, and I don’t know why.
Just as Anton’s mom thought only of what was best for her family, and through much sacrifice, finally brought her children to Canada, so too, my mom did what was necessary in trying times to care for her husband and children, even though, at the time, we did not understand her sacrifice and dedication. I just remember living in my own world, resenting much of what life was dealing out to me.
I wish my parents were still alive so I could apologize. I’d like to sit down and visit with them about those times, and what their feelings had been. I’d like to ask them more about their growing up days. But it’s too late. I can only hope that being parents, they understood my growing pains, and that they remembered when they, too, experienced their own. I hope they accepted my inconsiderate actions as those of youthful self-centeredness. Maybe that’s what mother’s answer, “Just wait,” meant, whenever I grumbled about things as they were.