An Old Book


An Old Book

I’ve turned a key in lock and open a door. Oh, my Gosh! It was complete chaos in a room. There are empty bottles, rough notebooks, rags, books, pants had been mixed and scattered on a floor. One of three beds was unturned and mattress lay on the window sill. There were empty bottles, dirty dishes, a can full of cigarette’ stubs on a table. It is a room in a student’s hostel after celebration of graduating from college. Hope that were clean rooms in the hostel, but for me fall this lot. I must to clean it because nearest two month will be live here.

There were some books on a floor. Usually it was the courses and manuals of chemistry, physics or books for other special disciplines as like as The Resistance Of materials or The Sewing Technology. The books were dirty and shabby. Among these books was a fiction. It was a hard covered book but name of one had been erased from the cover. OK. I’ve put the book on a shelf. May be to read one later, when will be have free time. I’ve cleaning up the room and didn’t pay attention for time. Someone knocked at the door. It was a guy with big bag. He said his name is Yuri and he received an order for this room also from a campus administration. Together we have finished tiding, after that decided to prepare some supper and become acquainted more in details.

Yuri arrived from a small town as like as me too. It was an optional the colleges of all Soviet Union, - everybody who would like to pass entrance examination have a chance to learn some subjects as like as math and physics within a month and to prepare for exams. The entrants from other towns have chance to live in students hostels. Payment for it was very cheap so lot of guys can afford themselves to live in big City within a month. There were some people in the hostel which didn’t planned to learn in future, but arrived to the big City with the purpose to live as far as possible from their parents and have a rest within this month. They paid for hostel and lessons but never visited college’s classroom.

There were some Jewish guys in our college’s preparing group, three boys and a girl. They were kept together and stand out against a background of rest part of students by better knowledge of subjects which we had learned during the lessons. Specially one chaps. His name was Simon. Sometimes our math’s teacher said him:
- Simon; Please explain for the rest of students the system of linear equations or linear system. I know you can do it well. Weather is nice today so I would like fishing with a friend of mine.
And Simon told us about theory of linear systems and did it as like as a professional teacher. His explanation comes so easily to us. He was very talented.
Sophia, - a Jewish girl was very clever in physics and another guy Sergey he knew well both subjects in physics and math. I didn’t understand why these guys decided to pass exams to a college but not into a university.

Simon was very clever man. He explained subjects very well. Once a girl from our group asked him – why he decided to pass exams at the light industry’s college?
- You knowledge is very good and can pass entry exams in any prestigious university of the USSR but why you decided to learn at this college?
“My parents decided to immigrate into Israel. I’ll be learning there, but now I must to became a student of any college here, because if I’ll be no a student at nearest autumn should be drafted to the Red Army and can’t go to Israel with my parents.” – answered he.

At the first part of day we have lessons but after lunch we were free. Usually students spend his free time studying in the college library and at evening walking in the city. Absolute majority of us were from the small towns of Ukraine and never had been in a big city and would like to see a life of the City. Once, at evening, together with Yuri we had visited a cinema. After the cinema decided to walk little in the downtown. There were very much public parks there. Not big ones. There are several benches, trees and flower-bed in park. But these small parks make air fresh in the City and it was pleasant for breathing at the hot July’s days. There were very much young people in the parks and climate was very friendly.
- Hi, dude, - I’ve turned and saw Sergey on a bench. We greet each other. Sergey was very pleasant man. Probably his parents were very cultural people, because his style of speaking was very polite. He never used neither slang nor bad words as another guys of our age. Sergey was born in the City, lived here permanently, very like his native town. He knew very much about Ukrainian history and told it’s about very interesting. I’ve asked him, why he decided to learn in the college? He is well educated, probably has respectable parents and his level is not for a college of light industry, he could be a student of a prestigious university. I’ve asked him it about.
“The point number five.” - Sergey answered.
“What do you mean?” – I didn’t understand him.
“Have you filled up any questionnaire or application form in this county? The point number five is a question your nationality about. I am a Jew, the point number five closes a way into any university for me, but of course it is not officially.” – said Sergey.

I had several Jew friends at a school. Now they are students mostly of the Lvov’s medical university. I told it about to Sergey and said that probably situation isn’t so dramatic. He answered that Lvov is a provincial city but not the capital. So probably situation there is better than in City.

Days flied after days. We are learned at the college and every evening had some relax – usually visited cinema, a pub or even a bowling. The bowling was most interesting place in the City. There is not something the same in provincial towns. The bowling was a part of a new hotel “The Kievan Rus” which had been built just for the Olympic Games-80. Usually overage people can’t visit it because it was a service for foreign tourists only who lives in the hotel. But if to pay little bribe to the security man personally, usually he close his eyes and we can play bowling.

There is a company of girls in our hostel. They lived in one room and their wish to become a student probably was the last point of their list of wishes. I can’t say that they were prostitutes, but I never seen one of them learning and preparing for exams. They were from different towns of Ukraine but they have the same interests.

Just the day before the first entrance examination someone knocked at the door. It was Tanya, one of those groups of jolly girls. Although, as seems to me, she wasn’t a numskull.
“Hi, how are you doing? Have you exams tomorrow?” – she answered.
“Oh, yes, Tanya, - physics.” I answered.
“I’m tired from these jolly times. Have you read something interesting?” – she asked me.
“Only learning books of math and physics. Although…” - I remembered the book about which found in the room.
“I am not sure that it should be interesting for you. I’ve found this book here, in the room. I have no idea what it about. You can not return one, if you want.” I said.
Tanya went and I sit to screw that crazy physics. Tomorrow’s exam is more difficult in compare of other ones which we must to pass. And it was the first exam for our group of students.

At the morning, I just must to go to the college for exam. But suddenly someone knocked at the door. It was Tanya again. I was surprised. She was in tears and with red eyes. She held the book in her hands.
“What happened? Tanya, is you OK?” – asked her.
“Your book… I’ve bring it back.” – said she.
“Oh, no problem. You can leave one for yourself if you want’’ – I answered.
“No. You must to read it. I think very much after reading. I think must to change my life. Today I’ll go home and be to help my mom. She has very hard life, but I’m stupid, very stupid girl. I did very many bad things in my life and must to change it. It is very good book and very useful. Thank you very much that you gave me to read it. Did you read it?” – She asked me.
“No, but I will”

It is strange. Tanya has read the book within one evening and night. One is quite thick I don’t know how she can to do it. And why the book completely changed her.

I’ve arrived to the college half hour later. The physics’ exam started. In front of the exam classroom’s door were our mates. I’ve seen Sophia and ask her what about exam.
“Is everything OK? “ – I’ve asked
“Simon goes the first, after him Sergey. Simon must to go out now and I’ll go next.” – She said.
“Oh, Simon is very cleaver man. He should pass exam without problem. It is very easy for him.” – I said.
“I’m sure for him, too.” – said Sophia
Several minutes later the door opened and Semion gone out. He had looked very sad.
“What mark?” - asked Sophia
“Bad.” – said Simon.
Sophia’s eyes became as like as saucers and she has stride into the classroom.
“What do you mean, bad?” – I’ve asked Simon, - “Did you receive “Good” mark and it is bad result for you?”
“No, I did. I’ve receive “bad” mark and it is bad result for me. My emigration to Israel together with my parents is under the very big question. Authority will make everything for my receiving to summons to an army. The emigration process is very long so my parents couldn’t finish it nearest couple of month.” – said Simon.
A quarter of an hour Sergey went out.
“Oh, my God! I can’t believe.”
“ The point number five…”
Everybody was shocked and any one didn’t want to go for exam now.
“OK, guys. I’ll go next. I’ll receive my “bad’ and may be should be lucky to be in time for evening’ bus go home.” – I said.
I’ve pool the door and entered into a classroom. There were a long table and several student desks in the classroom. The members of entrance examination were two men and a woman. The woman was the presiding commissioner.
“Have you the entrant card? What is your name?” – The woman asked me.
I gave her my card.
-“Takes two tickets from this bunch and two tickets from that one. Ones are two questions from theory and two practical tasks. You have near half of hour for preparing. Within this time you must to solve both practical tasks and if will be have several minutes you have chance to think about theoretical questions. Did you understand me?” – She said.
“Yes, I did.”
“Sit down at a free desk and start to write.”
The woman turned to Sophia.
“Mrs. Shoykhetman Sophia, are you ready to answer? If yes, come here.”
Sophia went to the commission and set down on a free chair. I’ve look at my tickets and red questions. One of it was: When blowing soap bubbles have two ones with different diameters, in which of them the air pressure is most high? The second question was electricity about. Two practical tasks were not very difficult too. I couldn’t understand why Semion and Sergey received bad marks if they have the similar tasks. I’ve wrote solve of practical tasks and became to listen Sophia’s answers. She answered with confidence but woman every time interrupt her and gave new questions. She tried to muddle Sophia and everybody can see it. At the end the woman said:
“Sophia1 You has very poor knowledge of physics. Your level is not enough for learning at the college. Probably, should be better if you’ll go to work at a plant. Your mark is “bad”! You are free.”

Probably I have any chance to pass this exam. If Semion, Sophia and Sergey received bad marks so I could to pretend only for very bad. The woman did look at me and said:
“Are you ready? Come here.”
I’ve put the sheets on the table and was be ready to receive the bad mark without any answering. But she said:
“Oh, you did solve both problems so you’ll not receive the bad. Are you ready to set out the theoretical questions which you had received?”
It astonished me so I’ve said that I’ll try. I wasn’t ready to answer because didn’t plane to do it, but nevertheless started to state the questions. I’ve confused and fluffed but she listen me calmly and sometimes even help to set me on the right track. At the end she said:

“Well. You knowledge of physics is not perfect but quite good and it is enough for the college. Your mark for the test is “good”. Are you satisfied with the results?”

I couldn’t believe my ear and didn’t understand why my mark is good, but Simon, Sophia and Sergey received the bad marks.
At lunch time I leave the college for the hostel. Yuri was in the room. He has exams tomorrow morning and it will the mathematics, written test. Yuri was free today so he had cooked “student’s dinner”. He asked me about exams. It was very important topic for him. I’ve told him about our Jew guys, that they were most clever among us, but they couldn’t to pass physics. Yuri said that his father works as a chief engineer at a small factory in the provincial town and he told him once that Jews can’t to take up some posts in our society, because they would like to immigrate into Israel and discredit the USSR by this fact. Also they can’t to learn in colleges and universities, because in Soviet Union education is free, but Jews should be useful for Israel but not for our country.
“You must have heard of it” - he said.
“No, never heard. I have a schoolmate who is a student of the medical university and he is Jew. He is good friend of main and I can’t understand why he may not to learn in university.” – I said him.

Someone knocked at door. Oxana, a girl from our hostel come in.
“Hi guys! Tanya said you have very good book. Can I read one?” - She said.
“Yes, of course, no problem. But be careful. Tanya returned the book with tears” - I’m tried to joke.
“Yes, I know. She said, that would like to change her life and gone home unexpectedly after reading. She said I must to read it so only after that I could understand her.” – said Oxana.

At evening we met with some friends at the city’s square. Sergey, Sophia and several other guys and girls. The square garden was our favorite place to meet each other in the city. Dry wine, someone bring real American Marlboro. Pleasant warm, summer evening, new friends, good cigarettes with light dry wine – everything dispose to frankly conversation which was interesting for us. We know there are not supergrasses among us so we can be frankly with each other and discuss some things which usually don’t tell to unfamiliar people. We openly talks about policy of our authority, immigration, nice girls about and other interesting topics.
At moment when we talked about Israel and USA an older man approached to us. We stop to talk because anybody knows him. The man was little drunk. He told some compliments for our girls, said he is alone and looking for the good company. The man was much older than we are, so maybe he is an agent of either KGB or militia. I think we told quite loud and some one could overhear our conversations. We tried to drive away him but the man didn’t want to do it. He said:
“I would like to be with your company, may I’ll be here? I’ll sing for you. I can.” – He said.

And he started to sing. It was an aria. When he had finished one started to sing another one. I never listed opera an air before so was shocked. He sang very well as like as a professional opera singer. Sergey offered wine and a Marlboro cigarette to the man. He drank but refused to cigarette and started to sing again. Everyone was delighted with man’s singing. He sang really well.
It was quite late so we decided to finish the gig and go home. Sophia had been living at the same street where was the hostel so we gone home together. At a metro train we talks about the man. I very liked his singing and said Sophia that I am very much listen Rock music but now change my mind about opera. I live in a small town there were no theatres, but in future, if I’ll became a student of the college and will be live in Kiev must go to the Opera-house. Sophia surmised the man was a professional opera singer but probably drunk very much and lost his stage career.

Next day after noon Oxana come to my room in the hostel together with another girl. She said, -
“I’ve read the book. Very like it, thank you. This girl would like to read one, too. She lives in 56-th room. May I give the book to her?” – She asked.
“Yes, of course.”
Oxana turned to the girl and said, -
“It is his book. You must to return one to him, but not to me.”
Turned to me she said,-
“I’ve returned the book so if you would like to find one in future, you must to look for it in the 56-th room.”
“No problem, Oxana. What this book about? Why every girl read it and has tears after that?” – I asked.
“You must to read one yourself. If I’ll tell you what it is about, it should be no interesting for you to read it.” – She said
The girls thanked me for the book and left room.
It’s endures several days until end of August. One girl takes to read the book and several days later hand down one to next girl. At the end of August the competitive examination had been finished. In front of dean office had been post up the list whose pass all exams and became the first year student of the College. I found my name at the middle of the list. It means that I’ve pass exam not perfect but not to bad at the same time. I go home by early train. The journey should be quite long, near six hours. I’ve set down near the window, make myself comfortable at the armchair and open the book. At the first page of it I’ve read: “Thomas Hardy. Tess of the d'Urbervilles”.




Some photographs of Kiev from 70-80-th years.



Обновлен 05 авг 2012. Создан 04 авг 2012

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