PART III

The snowbound
school

"Why are you alone here? What are you looking for?"

"For the school. Will you tell us where it is?"

"Get in".

A khaki bubble jacket and a coverall of the same colour, a light sweater, short curly hair and a bandaged finger – Dima Asovsky works for the fire-brigade on Dikson, earns additionally as a driver so he often goes from the settlement to the island and back. Of course he knew where the school 2 was, because he had finished it.

The back lamp of the cross-country vehicle TREKOL lighted up red the abandoned two-storyed green building, low wooden constructions and a chin-up bar. The frontal lamp lighted up yellow covered with snow steps of the school. Having stopped the engine of the vehicle Dima took his torch and went towards the school building.

"I asked in the administration why have they let you go alone. They should have given you a guide", Dima said displeased, trying to clear the snow away to get free the door of the school. "They told me you would be OK, but haven't you thought about bears? What would you do if a bear rushed out? How did you only get the idea to go alone?"

"They were so sure telling that..."

"Yeah sure", interrupted Dima. "We can leave the school now and in an hour a bear may come here for a hibernation. I was in the first or the second year when a bear came and lay down on the stones near the school, here on the coast. We went out and took photos of it. It can be really dangerous, especially here, where there is no light."
The polar night absorbed both the light of the TREKOL's lamps and the rays of our torches so that there was no way to distinguish neither the rocky coast which had to be somewhere near us nor the height of the school. Finally, Dima managed to open the door.
The dark hall. The grains of snow were hanging like silver dust in the frozen air. By directing the light of the torch upward it was possible to see the frozen bulb on the ceiling, by directing it downward we could see an inverted rimy chair and some maps resembling a roll of white glittering material. Was the ray of the torch directed onto the enter door of the school, we discerned some paintings including a Pisa tower, a single green paper, a chessboard, a dolphin, some molecules and three children's faces, one of which was not completed. It was very quiet.
School board in the closed school 2 with a frozen farewell of its pupils to the teacher.
"Here it was a dressing room for girls and there – for boys" Dima broke the silence going confidently somewhere into the furthest corner of the hall. Being disturbed, the snowy dust was twitching in the air. "And here the pioneers' flags used to hang. If you go along the corridor you will find the library, the dining-hall and the director's room."

"Have you got the most vivid recollection related your school?"

"I even have old photos. The kray where we live..." Dima tried to read something on the old poster. "Yes, I have," he answered and went up the third floor.

We went into the room where the children of primary classes used to study. The door had been broken by the wind. The light of the torch enveloped the room which was heaped with snow. The glass of the window had also been broken long ago. Outside its pieces was the night resembling a black thick cardboard. Among the things left in the room were the trainers freezed to the desk, musical loudspeakers, torn diapositive film strips, worn out sport shoes, coal in a small box from the chemistry room, copy-books hanging under the ceiling and an undressed doll which was very cold to see.
Blow on the snow and you can read "underline the subject and the predicate",rub the floor with the boot and "the wonderful world" opens showing you pictures and stories about animals.
"This is the place where I came to the first class, it is the most vivid recollection", Dima looked calmly around the class which now was like fabulous decorations prepared to a New Year's performing. He looked like a giant there between the small desks. "In 1988 my sister finished school and I began. Gladioluses were taken by a helicopter. I remember the sandwiches with butter and black caviar... We were over the moon", he said with the feeling of the childish joy but adult's annoyance.

"How did your family come to the North?"

"My parents were called here from Belorussia to work, my sister became only three years old then. My father worked at the airport and my mum here in the dining-hall of our school. The first time we lived in a shared house, every family had one room, some time later we moved. Then in 1995 the helicopter Mi-8 fell near Sterligov, a half of the airport staff were dead. My dad too", Dima tried to tell about the fact as fast as possible. "In 1998 I wanted to enter Ryazan Higher Airborne School. That didn't happen because I was sixteen when I finished school, but had to be seventeen to enter any military educational institution."


Сatastrophe near the mys Sterligova on 25 September 1995
Photo: www.polarpost.ru

"Why did people use to go to the North earlier?"

"People used to live splendidly here. There were lots of shops, our bread was transported to Norilsk, it was really delicious. The airport worked around the clock.. God, there was a cinema, ice cream was sold here! There weren't enough places to settle everyone who came here. I know a flying control officer from Novosibirsk who used to work here from 1991 to 1994. When he came to Dikson, he used to sleep in an armchair in the local inn."

"Have you never had an idea to go onto the mainland if there is nothing from the previous life here? No ice cream, no cinema."

"I don't aim to go to the mainland, I am even a bit afraid of it. Firstly, I will have to find a job there, which is much easier here, because there are no strangers, everything is familiar. Secondly, moving to the mainland could be a long story. I could leave everything here and move, but according to the old saying, the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill.

"I have lived in Moscow for a year, have also been to Krasnoyarsk. Something was not right there."
Those people who have a possibility to move to another places – do that. My mum lives on the mainland, in Sasovo near Ryazan. She was given a flat after my father's death. It was difficult for her to get used to the new place. During that period I often went to my mum, now my sister from Moscow visits her.

We went into the corridor. The crunch of the snow under our feet seemed to be too loud.

"That was a room for BMT, basic military training", Dima came in and floodlighted a huge drawing on the wall, a nuclear explosion was drawn with gouache. "Here we had an armoury, we learned how to use air guns. And in the room near here girls were taught to be typists. Everything is broken and demolished."

Inscription on the school board "We will never forget you. Sorry for raising the voices talking to you. (Can not be read) a possibility to get everything back, but (can not be read) there is no way to improve. I will never forget you, I mean we all will never forget you! Thank you for everything. I love you. From Dasha (can not be read). We feel bad without you.
"Did you have your first love here?"

"I did. She is in Krasnoyarsk now. In Year 11 I wrote poems for her and she answered with hers, I was stunned. My classmates said "Upset the lesson, upset the lesson!" It meant to give my poems to the teacher. She could read them for a half of a lesson and the whole class could relax. I stopped writing after my dad had died. I wasn't interested in anything as much as I did earlier and finished school with the middling results. My dad was good, everyone at the airport remembers him until now."

We looked into the room for computer science. The glass was unbroken so the classroom was not covered with snow. The reels with films, a magazine The primary school dated 1989 and a huge, brown, glittering with frost school board were in the classroom. "We will never forget you. Sorry for raising the voices talking to you. (Can not be read) a possibility to get everything back, but (can not be read) there is no way to improve. I will never forget you, I mean we all will never forget you! Thank you for everything. I love you. From Dasha (can not be read). We feel bad without you," the pupils' farewell to school was frozen on the board.

"That was cool," repeated Dima. "I sometimes, mainly in summer, come here and watch"

We came to the exit through the chairs and desks scattered chaotic all over the place. When the light rays were on the right wall, we could see the peeling off plaster, on the left wall – thick glass which had been broken in the middle. Directing the light rays down, the small hare's prints were to see on the snow. Looking at the getting dark opening of the chemistry classroom we saw an overturned piano which keys were unpressable because of the snow stuck in.

"What are you feeling by seeing that?"

"What do you think?"
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