WWI, the Russian fron

July 1, 2008
By Nina Serbedzija, Los Angeles, CA

They call her “mother” and every day, she eats a sour green apple picked from the tree by the hospital, because she believes it keeps her teeth strong. Nobody knows whether she really understands when they give her their quick “thank you”s. She never answers. Has anyone even heard her speak?
Some claim she’s a gypsy, and some swear that she’s foreigner, ‘cos they’ve seen the likes of her before! Most of them believe that she’s been here forever, washing the Army Boys’ undershirts and bloody hospital bed sheets since the war started. And how long ago was that?
Perhaps she knows. Perhaps she remembers.
Perhaps she knows that Ivan was the one that shot Nikolai in the head, but it was an accident, he was aiming for the bottle on the wall, and nobody saw anyway.
Perhaps she knows that Doctor Grigory had drunk a bottle of vodka an hour before his hand slipped during the surgery, not that it would have made a difference with wounds like those.
Perhaps she knows that after a night of visiting nurses, Andrey and Fyodor lock themselves in the kitchen by the station and kiss.
Perhaps she knows that blood bursts red, no matter how royal you are. She has washed enough sheets to know that.
They call her “mother”, and every day, they watch her sweep the dust off of the dirt road leading to her house. And she hums folk songs that their mothers sang to them, but that they can't quite remember the words of.

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