Dancing in Russia
I returned to my room to find a letter under my door. It was written in broken English and hard to understand. Finally I realized it was from Tamara, the girl I had danced with in the hotel more than a year earlier, inviting me to dinner at a restaurant in a nearby town. She requested I be standing on the street in front of the department store on Saturday night at eight.
I obeyed her request, and a taxi arrived exactly at eight. She had a bag of clothes and a pair of shoes she had borrowed from her father. Just outside town she asked the taxi to stop. She requested I take off my clothes and put on the Russian-made ones. At the restaurant she introduced me to the waitress as a friend of the family from Czechoslovakia. The ruse worked, and we danced the twist until closing time.
Tamara had a purpose and arranged a meeting with the parents of the current head of the Ukrainian church in America. They had lost touch with him. I was able to get them back in contact and a few years later he went home to visit them. We were doing exactly what the old communist system feared. Through our contacts, word spread about life in the west. We were a drop in the bucket if compared to the Beatles, but every drop counted.
Tamara did not dare be seen with me in town. She asked me to dress in her father's clothing each time we met outside town. She took me to concerts, amusement parks, fishing lakes and walks in the forest, but always in areas away from Kramatorsk. She did not speak English, so her desire to hold religious and philosophical discussions was limited by my broken Russian, aided by the small translation dictionary she carried. Tamara was a true believer in Christianity and attended church with a sect of Baptists in the area. Their meetings were in small groups and took place secretly in the houses of the faithful. Stalin thought he killed religion, but he only drove it underground.
Tamara was three years older than my oldest daughter and had committed a sin in her youth. She became pregnant before her seventeenth birthday in a one time encounter with a boy that belonged to her church. The parents forced a marriage and she became a mother. Her mother worked at the collective diary farm with very early morning hours and another work period late in the afternoon. The grandmother became the mother while her daughter continued her education.
Being a secret religious family did not mean that this family did not believe in the coming of Communism. The two ideas fit well, so Tamara was a strong and enthusiastic Consamole, a name for a young person being trained as a future leader.
He father died when her son was two years old and Tamara had to go to work. Her first job was a cashier at the department store in Kramatorsk. This town was a long bus ride from the town where everybody knew of her early sins. She continued her education and received a diploma to be a department store payroll clerk. She worked her way up to become the head of personal that included payroll.
When we first met she was in the final process of becoming a card carrying Communist. Women had rights in the established social system of the time, but men had the power. To rise to high position she would be required work very hard and in the end use her pretty body for leverage. He mother taught her this after she was with child.
Being caught with a foreigner was something she could not afford. She found in me a father like figure and a potential lover that could satisfy her desire for sex. Most of all she could climb inside my brain and see the world that she would never be able to see. If I told you that she did not tempt me it would be a lie. The only thing that held me back was protecting this pretty little girl's future.
It was through Tamara that I learned the depth of anti-Semitic feelings held by the Christians and farmers of the area. The Russian Church had become an extension and tool of the State under the Tsars. The Jewish population had been persecuted in the name of Christ and was very strong supporters of the 1917 Revolution. Being the best organized and educated when the civil war was over they took positions of power. The people in believed that Jews controlled the Secret Police of the Stalin State and were directly responsible for killing millions of Christians. These positions were not openly stated but people were eager to give me the history.
Tamara became brave and had dinner with her friends at the hotel restaurant. The beautiful red evening dress she'd found under her Christmas tree allowed her to show off her body. She was able to dance the waltz with Lona to her heart's content, to the envy of the local ladies. Lona departed the next morning, leaving me alone to finish the project.
The morning of the final melt Leon knew where to take me without asking. He helped Tamara find a house she could use that day. Tamara prepared a hot bath. The bath was a hot and cold treatment for the head. The body is immersed in a bathtub filled with warm water with only the head sticking out. In rapid succession very hot and very cold water is poured over the head. The relaxing effect of this procedure is unbelievable. She had a lunch fit for a king ready. My recommendation that she marry the nice gentleman from Odessa fell on deaf ears.
Flowers were needed for Vera for International Women's day on the eighth of March. This day was a paid holiday in the Soviet Union but is celebrated as a combination Mother's day and Valentine's day. Tamara agreed to buy them and somehow get them to me at the train station without being seen. We were on the train when she arrived at the platform with the yellow March flowers. "See you someday," she whispered to me as she handed me the flowers.
My Russian traveling companions saw this and asked if she was my Ukrainian lover. My answer was, "No, just a good friend."
Tamara was a delightful friend during my stay in Kramatorsk.
MAYBE I WILL TELL YOU MORE SOMEDAY.