|SHLOSHIM — THIRTY DAYS AFTER DEATH|
The thirtieth day after death marks the second degree of the soul’s separation from the world. This is when, according to the Jewish custom, you put up the gravestone.
On the thirtieth day after the tragedy, a monument was erected on the site.
A moment of silence was observed. Everyone rose, and one of the schoolchildren lit an Eternal Flame in the memory of the dead. Their names were being read out in complete silence:
We came to the cemetery for the fortieth-day [Russian Orthodox] remembrance. We put up the gravestone for the thirtieth-day [Jewish] one. I was brought in to make sure that everything had been done right.
Not too many people showed up for the seventh- [Jewish] and ninth-day [Russian Orthodox] mournings, but it looked like everybody came for the Fortieth Day. Lots of children, too, and they seemed to keep themselves apart. No one said anything. Everybody laid flowers, lit candles, put down stones, and then we the adults went back to the bus, but the children stayed. I don’t know how long they stayed there.
June 17 was Irina’s seventeenth birthday. How she had looked forward to it! She kept asking me, Mom, how will we celebrate my birthday? I said, We’ll have fun, as usual, with family and friends.
We set the table, and a lot of people came — her school friends, her teachers, the parents of some of her closest friends, and, of course, all of our relatives and friends. She was the only one absent. We sat at the table and we remembered her.
She was the youngest, she was everybody’s favorite. She was like a little bell that rang and brought us joy with its clear sound. Her laughter rang all over the house. She was brimming with energy; she loved life so much!
Apart from attending regular school, she started attending musical school, too, beginning with her first grade, learning piano. She always found time for everything. She was always performing, in every concert.
She exuded light. She was beautiful. She always smiled. She was like a sun that warmed everyone around her. She was kind, always helping her friends and old people. She was a small magnet that drew people. She had so many friends. Our house was always filled with her friends.
She was not just my daughter; she was my best friend, and I was hers. She wouldn’t even shop for clothes by herself; she was bored, she would drag me along.
Lately, she was growing into an adult, very quickly and abruptly. Suddenly she wanted to go see Spartacus, which is a serious classical ballet. But the performance was in July, and I didn’t go. I couldn’t, didn’t want to go without her.
Her homeroom teacher, Isabella Tevlina, remembers writing to her last year, “Irina! You’re a wonderful, charming, kind-hearted girl! You value friendships, you know how to study and how to have fun, and you are easy and enjoyable to be with. I’ll be so happy to have in the future more students who are as nice and charming as you are. Good luck to you!”
Now she added: “What a shame that your life broke in mid-sentence . . .”
The children wrote in the special Black Memory Book:
“Irochka! My little sunshine! I don’t want to — I can’t — say farewell to you! I don’t believe in what has happened. All I can say is, Good-bye, my friend, good-bye! You’ll be forever in my heart, my darling!”
“Irochka darling, I never thought I would be writing in this album for you. I still can’t understand that you’re not with us. I’m still waiting for you to call, to walk through the classroom door. To show up, period. I — all of us — miss you, love you, wait for you.”
“Irochka! The best of us always leave first. You were the only one I could talk to openly. We’ll never forget you and we’ll love you forever. Thank you and forgive us!”
Her gravestone is very beautiful: the horizontal piece is of light-blue marble, and the vertical one is a black heart with her picture and two unopened lily buds on the right; and we planted some very pretty cacti around, some of them in blossom. And we wrote,
“You’re alive to us, our dear,
The light in you has not gone out,
It will be forever in our hearts . . .”
She always loved lilies and roses, and that’s what we keep putting in the vase at her grave.
And a tiny doll next to her picture. She was like a doll herself. All we take comfort in is, One day we’ll meet again . . .
On July 1, we put up a gravestone for Simona, a big heart of red rock. And the horizontal plate has a red tint — natural rock, hardly polished. Also, we put a vase with the flowers that are always fresh.
We didn’t carve a picture. And the writing is in Hebrew only. Just says she died in a terrorist attack. Everything according to the Jewish custom.
I bring her white roses. They were her favorite.
For the Thirtieth Day, we went to the cemetery. She already had a gravestone installed, black marble with her picture, Yaelush (Yulia) in large letters, and two rosebuds about to open. That’s what she was — just starting out in life, just on the verge of blossoming. So beautiful she was!
The rabbi read a prayer, and we were silent and weeping for a long time. Sveta [older sister] was in her wheelchair; she still couldn’t walk. We lit the remembrance candles, lots of candles, and placed pebbles on the gravestone — lots of pebbles, too. The horizontal plate and the edge were completely lined with pebbles.
At home, we set the table and remembered Yulechka. She was sunny. She was beautiful. She was kind. She loved life. She loved, and she was loved. She was happy. She was happy throughout her short life. Everybody loved her, and she loved them back. They remembered her smile.
I lost a daughter; my older daughter, her best friend; my husband, his favorite; my parents, their beloved granddaughter. This is a huge wound and a huge pain that will always be with us.
All Sergei’s friends came from Komsomolsk to mark the Fortieth Day along with our old friends and relatives . . . It was a wonderful day. We went back to the cemetery, we sat down at the table, we drank to Sergei’s memory. Everybody kept repeating how generous and kind he had been — maybe too generous. Maybe you can’t be like that in this day and age.
Me, I remembered his eyes, his voice, his smile . . . I loved his smile. He had so much life in his eyes; it was like they were burning with life. I kept telling him: Don’t marry a beauty, let her be just good-looking. Then you’ll have fine-looking children. I wanted grandchildren so badly. We had already agreed that he’d call his firstborn Ivan, after his father. We even agreed that we’d build a house with two entrances — I couldn’t let him go just like that; and he agreed — who else would baby-sit his kids!
He was so interesting to be with — just talk, we could talk about anything. Truly, he was my friend, my best, my closest friend.
We put up a gravestone on the Thirtieth Day. It is handsome and shaped as a heart, and it has Anya’s name, picture, and a dolphin. I wanted to say that she had not had a chance to fall in love — to be a bride — that her young heart had not had a chance to love and live. I did go to Eilat after her death and brought two miniature souvenir dolphins that we also put on her gravestone. Now they’re looking at her.
I think about her all the time. She was a proud girl. She always wanted to be Number One. When I was still carrying her, I wanted my daughter to be the most — the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most happy . . . That she would be a good person, with good friends, and so she would be a good friend to them, too. I like to have many friends, too.
This is what she wrote in her little-girl diary: “I love stuffed toys and Mom, I want to study well, to be loved by my family, always to be healthy, beautiful, joyous, and to have everything in my life be GREAT!”
And the next entry goes, “I’m filling out this form again two years later, I have grown up and very happy, because I’m finally going to Israel! Hurrah!”
Diaz was like a brother to me. Back in Tashkent, we went to the same Chabad yeshiva. It so happened that we came to Israeli Embassy in Tashkent on the same day, got our visas on the same day, and took the same flight here.
When we got here, he had nobody — no relatives, no friends. He went to Zafed, to continue his yeshiva studies, and I went to stay with my aunt . . . On April 28, he got drafted. After two weeks, he came on a day-and-a-half leave, and then went back to the Army. And now he came on May 31, and got killed on June 1.
I go to his grave every other day — he’s buried at the military cemetery at Tel Baruch. I sweep his grave, I talk to him . . .
Faina Nalimova, grandmother:
How can you live through something like this? I buried my husband, too, but I had not cried or been upset as much as I was for the girls. I am the one who brought them up since they were in diapers, because Alla [mother] was working all the time. I was their second mother. When Lenochka was a baby, she couldn’t stay still. I changed her diapers and I put her on the pillow next to me when she went to sleep. She slept with me all the time. Yulenka was two when I dressed her and let her outside in the winter. I told her not to go far from the house; I’d put on my clothes and be right out, I said. Then I saw her walk to where some boys were making a snow hill. She must have been afraid I would give her a talking-to, so she flew towards me, her little arms like wings — Grandma, Grandma . . . She was so gentle. Once, we were here already, I was cooking and I went to the kitchen and stumbled and dropped things. She leaped up — Grandma, don’t touch anything, I’ll pick it up. They were so kind-hearted! They always helped everybody . . .
They put up a very handsome gravestone at the cemetery at Netania. Just right for the girls, with little hearts . . . Raisa was big-boned, so she has a wide heart, and Masha was slim, so hers is oblong. And rosebuds. Every time I come to the grave, I say to myself, I’d rather be scrubbing her back than this rock.
I ordered a very handsome gravestone: against tender light-blue background, a black heart with Marina’s picture, a broken branch with drooping leaves, and roses, also with buds drooping, on both sides. And a black granite vase for the flowers. It always has flowers in it, live or artificial. The live ones die, but the artificial are always there. A very handsome bouquet of red roses . . . And a black stripe ringing the stone.
Nadezhda Malchenko (about Aleksei Lupalo):
Of course you feel sorry for the children: Aleksei Lupalo, Sergei Panchenko, their parents . . . I liked Alesha so much, such a charming boy, even a little sentimental. Maksim is tougher. But Alesha was really a boy, he would have been seventeen in October. He would come over and always say, How are you today? Put on your gloves for work — spare your hands! He would say to Maksim, Why are you talking to your mother like this? Go tell her you’re sorry! Such a wonderful boy . . . I feel so sorry for his parents, he was their only child. They went back to Ukraine, but I often call Lyuba, his mom. The main thing for them now is to decide on a gravestone. For them, that’s sacred — like a link . . .
He was so self-reliant. His dream was to open his own business — his own disco. So, in a way, this is ironic.
He drew well. They would come here and paint posters for their disco. Roman and he would come up with names — I think they wanted to call it Neptune. They kept it open for a couple of nights, but they couldn’t compete. He didn’t really realize what he was getting into. You have to be crafty, and you need a strong backing. In short, it didn’t work out. He was very upset.
How can I come to terms with his absence? I have no idea — who had a right to interrupt their lives? It’s different when a person dies a natural death, but when someone cuts short young people’s lives — so many lives that never took place!
I always told Roman: Your wife will be the happiest woman in the world! He was so understanding, so courteous, so gentle! All the girls loved him, all were drawn to him! No matter whom I ask — everybody loved Roman. His teacher called him Mezuza — Why? I asked. Because all the girls want to kiss him, she said.
With girls, he was very picky. He had a girl two years ago, but they split up, and he was very upset about it. After that, he never had a steady one. That made me nervous; I cautioned him — They’ll pull a fast one on you! No, Mom, he said, I’m no fool, I understand things. He used to kid around all the time, but inside he was a serious boy.