|SHIVA — SEVEN DAYS OF MOURNING|
We got a lot of help from people at work and our friends. They took care of all the arrangements.
We didn’t have to worry about anything. There was a religious person who made sure the shiva was observed correctly. Children visited in the morning; coworkers, in the evening. The friends were with us all the time. And we talked all the time. About Simona.
We remembered what she had been like as a child and how she had grown up . . .
Everybody who visited after the funeral lit a candle. Once the candle burned out, we lit a new one. All week long. This is his room that he painted blue by himself — that’s how he wanted it. In fact, he painted it about ten days before the tragedy. Here’s the bed he bought himself. I remember him sleeping, I remember him getting up.
Surprisingly, he liked all the Russian songs and modern Russian pop. He had every record. And he also liked classical music, the calm kind. He picked dolphins as his symbol. He loved them so much! He had posters and all; everywhere you look in his room, there are dolphins . . .
After the funeral, we came back home. My relatives cooked something; someone brought something. They brought a takeout from some restaurant every day. We had a full house of food. I don’t remember what I was eating or drinking or talking about. I was in a fog.
People were coming in nonstop all week long. By the evening I was so tired I just dropped into bed. Mornings, before people started coming, I would wash the floors, so they don’t see the dirt, and it all started all over again.
For the first three days, the seven-day candle would not burn — Marina’s soul didn’t want to leave the house, I guess. Whatever we did, however we put it — it still wouldn’t burn. It would light up and then go out. On the fourth day, I tried a different candle, and this one did burn. On the same spot.
We must have had hundreds of visitors — no exaggeration — the first week. Both friends and strangers. More Israelis than “Russians”, including observant ones. A lot more. I was just not in a condition to remember them all; many of them I still can’t recognize. Later, I started slowly remembering people who came more than once.
During Shiva, you don’t have to welcome anyone — you just sit there. I didn’t know anything about that tradition, and may God never let you learn it. But we didn’t know it, so we welcomed everybody, and we tried to talk to everybody, to serve them — we were so worn out, we couldn’t look at each other in the evening. On the plus side, we weren’t given a chance to stay by ourselves.
The observant ones came to read Kaddish. They put their heart into it as they prayed and sang, and we just stood there like dummies — we didn’t even know we had to cover our heads.
Recently we were visited by a bunch of Russian-speaking yeshiva students from Jerusalem. There were about ten of them, all with huge backpacks, which took up half the room. They just sat there and talked to us.
It’s simpler when you speak the same language . . .
We sat Shiva, we stayed indoors for the whole seven days, and people kept coming all this time. Many strangers, too, from all over the country, came to support us. We were so shaken we didn’t quite understand what was going on. Somehow, we received these people, we said something, but we have no memory of what it was.
And we couldn’t remember the people.
The candle was burning all the time. I looked at the flame and believed inside that it was her soul burning, clear as the flame. I knew that her soul was still hovering around us. Of course, we wanted her to come back. But I realized it was impossible.
A letter written by a boy who was fond of Irina:
We were never close friends, but in the last few days I have felt very close to you. Since the ninth grade, I have seen you in the hallways, and I really liked you, but I lacked courage to approach you. You were always among your friends, bringing light and joy to the group. Every time I saw you I rejoiced in your cheerfulness and your sweet smile . . .
In the tenth grade, we have all followed our chosen paths — one you will never complete.
After six days, the pain has not calmed down. It just became dull, and found itself a remote spot in my heart. It is so hard to come to school, and it’s even harder to be left alone with yourself.
I don’t know how one can go on living. It seems that one should obey reason, but one’s heart mourns and feels dull pain. A thread in my soul has been torn — one of those that connect us to life. As if a part of me has been killed, and it doesn’t really matter that we never knew each other in person. I think you’re still among us; that your soul is still hovering among those close to you. Perhaps you could address them — try to comfort them a little bit?
I hope you don’t mind me addressing you informally. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s important. Now you can see our hearts, and you know what we have in them.
Today is Friday, exactly a week since that day of misery that put so many parents in mourning to the end of their lives. I reread the special issue of Vesti that came out yesterday; it is dedicated to you, Irochka, and many other kids killed by this human devil. Tears come to my eyes. Why is it that your lives had to be cut short in the very beginning, just as you were beginning to live them?
In two weeks, you would have been seventeen. What a great age it is! Now you will be seventeen forever.
Lord: would you please tell me why you are punishing us so cruelly? Are we so deeply mired in sin that we deserve to be deprived of what is dearest to us? Lord, I fear we will not endure this ordeal.
Irochka, when you get to Heaven, ask the Lord: Doesn’t He see us suffering? Isn’t there enough suffering in the world?
We will never forget you, Irochka, and we’ll be praying for the peace of your soul. I hope that up there in the Kingdom of God you will be better off than in this mortal world.
You should just be patient, you should wait, and one day all of us will be with you again; once again, you will be with your friends and those who love you. No — not just yet. First, each of us would have to walk the bitter path of suffering in this punishing life. You had just stepped on this path, and you were not allowed to proceed. This seems to have been preordained from above. This seems to be best for you.
We will remember you always. Eternal love and peace to your soul, Irochka. Your image will be always in our hearts. Our souls will always await you and mourn for you.
Be happy in the above, next to the Lord who decides our paths.
Sergei, who always loved you
Some religious people came over in the evening after the funeral. Also, many who came to the funeral stayed afterwards. The house was chock-full of people. That went on day after day, through Shiva and the Thirty Days.
Every day someone came from the temple to pray — outside the house, simply because there was no room inside. They cleared a small space outside and put tables and benches.
The local supermarket kept delivering food and drink and fruit and vegetables and paper plates and whatnot. They knocked on the door, we opened, and they just started hauling in the boxes. We had to store part of it with the neighbors — we didn’t have enough room.
After Shiva, we went to the cemetery, and then to a memorial evening for Yulia that her Katzir School organized. So many children came, all wearing white blouses. They read their poetry dedicated to her memory, sang songs, talked about her. It was a very touching occasion.
A few months later, they made a book about Yulia with all these songs and poems and drawings, and presented it to us.
Only family came to the ninth-day remembrance ceremony. We went to the cemetery. Villagers came up to the grave, and we offered everybody a drink to Sergei’s memory — that’s the custom. Then we came back home and sat down at the table and had another drink to his memory.
After the funeral, we had a guard from the town hall staying with us for three days. And then I had people with me day and night. There were a lot of people, both teachers and students, from my Hebrew school. My teacher Drora was in America when this happened, so she hopped on the plane, and the next morning she was already at my house. The whole school administration was at my house. It really helped me keep my sanity in the first few days. Lots of Anya’s classmates came to help. I would wake up in the morning and hear them cleaning up. And that gave me the strength to come out to the living room and live for another day without Anya. During Shiva, you are supposed to stay in your living room day and night.
I remember children bringing me the food they warmed up at the apartment next door. The children were very caring — they served the food, they asked me to have a bite, to drink something. I could see pain in their eyes, caused by Anya’s death, and empathy for me, too.
They paid a lot of attention to Sasha [Anya’s brother], too. He was also in a state of shock. The rabbi said you couldn’t go outside during Shiva. So his classmates came to visit him. Everybody took care of me, and I, his mother, was unable to pay attention to him. To be honest, I ignored him sometimes, and then I would remember and ask, Where is he, whom is he with? I’d rather he come here and sit with me.
After everybody left, I would go to bed, but I couldn’t sleep: I was racked by guilt that I was in a warm bed, while Anya was in a cold grave. I could only sleep for a few hours, and only with the help of some strong pills. It was hard to wake up in the morning; while I was asleep, I could forget all about it, but in the morning right away I would remember all the horror — that Anya is no longer, that I had to go through another day without her. I lay there and cried, and then I would hear voices in the living room and I would get up. I needed Anya’s friends and teachers and classmates — they became to me like my own, like a part of Anya. I waited for their arrival, and then I would see them off and kiss them.
It was important to me that someone came from her school, since that’s where she had spent most of her time — with them.
During Shiva, I wanted to watch TV to see what was being written and told and said about Dolphinarium. I wanted to go to the site of the tragedy; I was told that people kept coming there with flowers and candles, with memories and love. I wanted to see it all for myself, but the rabbi said I couldn’t. And I realized I was going to do my best to help Anya’s soul leave for Heaven; in general, I tried to follow everything the religious people told me, all for Anya’s sake. And the men came every night to pray. The prayers went on for a couple of hours, and in between they told us about God, about death, and the soul.
This is why during Shiva you can’t leave the house, and everybody comes to see you — because the soul is in the house, and it mourns along with its family about leaving the body, because it’s hard, leaving the body, and the soul needs help. And the prayers help it cleanse itself.
There were a lot of people, from all over the country: Ramat ha-Golan, Jerusalem, Knesset members, SELA people — and I had to talk to all of them, tell them about Anya, and for the last few days I got so worn out I would fall asleep without any pills.
Ludmila Litvinova, Anya’s aunt:
Anya was my only niece. I didn’t make it in time for the funeral; I came only on June 8, in time for her birthday.
Anechka was such a beautiful girl — a real doll. Everybody loved her so much. She was in the first beauty contest in our town, which was not just about appearances; you had to show a lot of talents — singing, dancing, witty repartees; you had to be artistic and charming.
She was crowned Mini Miss Wunderkind of Komsomolsk-on-Amur. We were so proud of her!
She was so talented, she took art classes — painting, sculpting . . . From the age of ten up until the time they emigrated she went to art school. Her drawings were even displayed in Japan at a children’s art exhibit.
If she were alive, I would have brought her a birthday present from Russia. I would have wished her happiness, health, a long life, and always staying cheerful and beautiful. She had so many prospects, and she already knew what she would be doing in life.
I knew Anya Kazachkova since kindergarten. We were in the same group, we even shared a chamber pot. Her locker was opposite mine, and we always chatted as we were getting dressed to go out. I don’t remember her without a smile. She was always fun.
Then her family left for Israel, and six months later we did, too. Anya and her mother and her cousin Dima met us at the airport. Anya kept talking nonstop about Israel and how much she loved it here.
And then I saw her at Dolphinarium. I lost a very close person.
Anna Kazachkova (on her daughter’s sixteenth birthday, on the seventh day of Shiva):
Let us wish that Anya is well there, that Mariana and she would always be laughing. When you believe that their souls are alive, maybe it makes it easier for them, and for us, too. We can’t see them, but perhaps they can see us. So we’ll eat and be merry, and they’ll look at us and rejoice in our sitting here and celebrating her birthday. Anya wanted to have many friends at her birthday. And so, you are all here. I’ll try to be cheerful today, too.
I gave birth to Anya sixteen years ago!
Last week I went around the apartment checking on things. In Mariana’s room, I saw two doves sitting outside. Two perfectly identical little doves. They knocked on the window, and I opened it. They walked on the windowsill and flew away.
Believe it or not, but I did. I believed that these were our girls coming to visit.
We had dozens of people over every day. Everybody I knew came to visit. It seemed as if I knew half Israel. And after everybody left — every day — I washed the floors. Then I fell asleep without pills. And then I would get up at six in the morning, and it would start all over again.
All this time people brought food; the house was bursting with food. All these cakes and cookies, all this water, just sat there in boxes, because no one ate anything, but people drank a lot of soda and juices. And hot food, mornings and evenings. I remember giving a lot of food away. I didn’t notice what I was eating or drinking — I was only smoking. I hadn’t smoked for six years. I took it up again after I saw Liana’s eyes.