One More Memory

Just another memory, one of many, prompted by a conversation with an online friend.

One of my closest high school friends was accepted to the same university as me, and our friendship (and heart-to-heart conversations) continued. Her mother was a biologist, and she would go on research expeditions to the Far North every summer. Sometimes, my friend would accompany her. Once, when we had one of those heart-to-heart conversations, she told me how she witnessed a helicopter chase of the children. 

At school, we were told that the Soviet government takes care of the Native tribes of the Far North and brings civilization to them; and that children receive a high-quality education in the boarding schools and do not have to migrate with raindeers. And now I am listening to my friend L. telling me a different story.

Imagine a helicopter approaching, and all the children run into hiding. It lands, and the people from the helicopter start to walk from one chum to another and ask whether there are any children in this household. And the parents respond to the effect of “what are you talking about?! We haven’t got no children!” And if they find some, everybody screams and tries not to let the children go. 

And the most puzzling thing is that when a helicopter brings these children back home for a summer break, their parents say: we do not want these children; they are not our children. They do not know how to live in the tundra anymore; they are not ours; you can take them back. 

I remember L. telling me that with her big beautiful eyes wide open in disbelief. And we shook our heads and laughed: silly people! We were not small children at that time, we were nineteen or twenty, and we still chose not to see,

Even years later, when I read books about Native Americans in Brazil who were trying to stay on their ancestors’ land while capitalists wanted to seize it for oil production, it never occurred to me that the same thing was happening in my country. When I read about the extermination of Native people in the US and boarding schools in Canada, it never occurred to me that the Soviet Union was doing the same thing. 

Like in many other cases, it’s not even that somebody was hiding the truth from me; I never bothered to process the facts I knew. I never thought: these are the same Indians as in the books. And I can’t explain why.

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.

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