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An Unjust Vengeance

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1899

The day was fourteenth of August. The weather was cold and crisp but the sun was barely shining through the cracks in the clouds. Varvara Bezrukov clutched the young being she was carrying closer to her breast as she hurried between the crowds. The baby began to cry and wriggle around in her arms, Varvara tried desperately to quieten the child and stop her from falling from her grasp. She was almost there, this was where she had to say goodbye.

The doors of the building were battered and bruised as was almost everything else on the street. The windows were stained, they were smashed and beyond repair. However., it was not the worst building she had seen. It was definitely better than the place she would return to as home. The walls shook when Varvara rattled on the door. A distressed little woman answered. She was as thin as a stick and wore a worried yet welcoming expression on her worn, aged face.

“Yes?” was all she could mutter. It was foolish; she already realised what Varvara was doing on the damp, stone doorstep. She reached out her arms for the child and nodded a simple understanding to the woman and watched her walk away back into the crowd and disappear forever out her child’s life.

The woman brought the child into the building which was scarcely a home but would have to do. It smelled of damp and rotten potatoes. At one end of the hall was a large wooden table with broken benches at either side, next to the table near the wall was a large staircase which was far from grand. The room was a palette of greys and browns. The whole place was.
“Another one Anna!” Shouted the woman careful not to awaken the little girl in her arms. Anna, the cook, emerged from a door on the left.
“Pomogite!” She said, smiling for a second before resorting to her familiar frown. The other woman sighed before heading up the stairs to the find a spare bed amongst the twenty or so other children.

1914

Antonina had been living in the orphanage for fifteen years since her mother had left her. She had survived on the basics that had been provided by Anna and Galina for herself and the other girl’s who lived in the orphanage. Antonina felt much sympathy towards both her carer’s especially Galina after the events of 1905. Galina had lost her boyfriend due to the demonstration at the Winter Palace. He had been a peasant and upon the advice of his brother had joined the march. The march fatally ended with the death of almost every demonstrator. Galina had been distraught for days after hearing the news and each of the orphanage’s residents including Antonina had been unable to reconcile her. Galina had swore revenge for her lover’s death but she was becoming weaker and weaker and therefore she was incapable of taking to the street to protest. Anna had also reminded her that they did not want to provoke the government further as they could be in danger of losing everything. Despite of all these hardships both Anna and Galina had supported and provided for the girls’ without fail and it was for that that Antonina was grateful. They were her best friends and her parents in one. She remembered the good times like the meals that Anna could delightfully cook up. She had made many other friends with the girl’s she shared a room with. They giggled and talked and played together around the building. Antonina loved the orphanage and did not wish for any other home. But soon, she realised she was going to have to leave.

She was aware Russia’s situation was getting worse. The Great War had been declared and the Tsar had sent the Russian military to the front. Food was in sort supply and everybody could feel the effects for the worse. The orphanage was becoming poorer. So, since Antonina was now fifteen years old she had reached the decision that it was time she left and faced the harsh reality of the real world.
“Be careful, do you hear!” Anna said embracing the girl, affectionately.
“Do you know, I remember you when you were just a little baby, look at you, now,” Galina produced a small handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed her eyes. Antonina waved back at the women before wandering further into the unknown.
As Antonina continued to travel along the streets she began to witness inhumane sights. At the bottom of a shop door sat a man with a sick face, it was bruised and dirty with skin sagging beneath the jaw. He was wrapped, inadvertently, in strips and strips of numerous pieces of material which were indescribably unpleasant. The clothing smuggled pieces of bread crumbs between it’s folds of fabric. The man was clearly homeless, hungry and helpless. However, disappointingly he was not alone, in fact, the streets were swarmed with people exactly like him. Antonina felt shocked, believing, before now that she was the poor one. A family consisting of a mother and father and two children rushed past Antonina. They were eager to get somewhere even though, by the look of them, they didn’t even own the strength and energy required to run. Antonina watched the family turn a corner and down a dark alley way, she waited a while before seeing the family return the from the dark close clutching small bundles of food. They moved slower and shiftier, now. This left Antonina, once more, puzzled.

The factory, of which, she was attempting to find was near by. Antonina eyed the grey building and stepped up to the door. It was a unsightly place and did not seem very active. She knocked on the wood, anyway. There was no answer, not even after three more knocks. Antonina peered through the cracked glass that served as windows. The place was of a ghostly feel like everything had just been abandoned suddenly one day.
“You aren’t going to get anything from there” Said a voice behind her. Antonina turned around to find a man staring back at her. He was of middle age and she concluded that he must part of the better class due to his appearance and clothes.
“But, I was coming here to work”
“Oh, you naïve silly girl! Don’t you know this place has been shut down for several months. This whole country’s going to ruin. Didn’t you know that?” The man sighed, shaking his head with an almost disgusted expression. Antonina was equally taken aback. Never before, had anyone spoken to her like that. What was really happening to this country?
“Thank you, sir” She decided to address the man as she wished he had her.
“Huh! Sir, don’t joke with me, lady” He said and walked away back to where had come from. Antonina desperately studied her surroundings wondering what on earth she was supposed to do now. She had a little bit of money somewhere in her pocket but she doubted whether it would actually get her anything. She thought about the poor family she had seen, earlier. Where would they be? What home did they have? She felt trapped and defeated and betrayed. Anna and Galina had persisted in telling her what the real world really was like and how the streets were a home to the poor. Antonina walked further into the darkness. Passing, as she went, more and more inappropriate sights.

Her feet were throbbing with a little pain and she was overwhelmingly tired. There was absolutely nowhere that she could go and rest. Antonina gasped and realised to great horror, the only option was to do what almost every other person was doing, and sleep on the pavements. Antonina began to settle herself down on the stone ground. It was freezing cold and although she managed to cover herself with a ragged edged blanket, it made no difference. She was wary of closing her eyes, of allowing herself to feel safe amongst the treacherous arms of the street wrapping it’s long dark cloak around her shoulders.

“Is she dead?” A man’s voice arose Antonina from sleep. She opened her eyes to find two men staring at her. They looked slightly rough and poor.
“You’re a funny looking one, aren’t you?” Said one of the men. He looked very young only a couple of years older than she was. The other man was the older one and he must have been his dad or uncle or something of the kind.
“What do you want?” Asked Antonina trying to not to sound rude or intimidated although she clearly was. She pulled the blanket even more around her body.
“Okay, your definitely not from the poor class are you?” The boy asked, he kept asking similar questions about how she was better of than him but he never seemed to bothered with receiving an answer.
“You obviously don’t know what your doing here and what to do. Come on, get up!” Yelled the older man wearing a similar expression of disgust as that of the man she had stumbled upon earlier. He hauled Antonina up by her arms. She wanted to stop him, kick him, shout in his face. She turned to the boy as if he would help, instead he simply grabbed the blanket and stepped in tow beside the man without saying a word.
“Excuse me. Where are you taking me?” She said to know avail. Her face sunk in disbelief at how bad she had failed in trying to live independently. More than ever, she now longed to be in the comforting embrace of the orphanage. She was out her depth amongst the rouge’s and thieves of common Russia. It was a harsh and unforgiving place of which not be entered lightly a she know realised was her mistake.
“Sweetheart, don’t worry we’re saving your god awful life” Antonina had no idea how to react to this strange response. They walked and stopped in front of a small building that looked like the factory, it was broken and abandoned. However, upon going inside Antonia appreciated it was far from disused. The place wad filled with people. They were moving slowly between the walls or sitting completely still on the floor and on the stairs. The man let go of Antonina and left her in the hands of the boy. He moved her over to a small space on the floor.
“Where am I?” She asked him. He explained that she was inside a home for people who needed help on the streets. Most of these people were poor and impoverished.
“But these are worse of people than me” Antonina said aghast.
“I know, but you had no idea of what you were doing, did you? You had your bag lying openly next you in the middle of the pavement and you don’t exactly look like these dear old people, do you?” The boy was kneeling down to her.
“Oh! Well, I guess I should be thanking you” The boy gave her a warm smile and prised himself from his knees. He vanished around a corner and into a crowd of impoverished, pitiful women. Antonina sat alone and quiet for a while after all she didn’t have anything to do. She wished she could talk to the girl’s in the orphanage or her best friend Galina. It was becoming colder through the many draughts in the rooms and the walls were damp which caused them to peal and crack as if at any moment the place could just fall down in a heap. She was glad that at least she had a place to stay but Antonina had to find a job, she had to find herself a life worth living. God knows, she did not want to end up like this.

The breakfast had been much chaos. There had been a small amount of potato and unidentifiable food sources all mashed into one grey mess of a sickly puree. Although, this was a luxury that not even everyone could acquire. As Antonina discovered, to retrieve this small ration you had to rush to the front, barging and bruising people just to get there. Therefore, without this knowledge Antonina had been unsuccessful in seeking her morning meal. She noticed the boy at the front next the older man she had met yesterday. She waved to the boy, above a gathering of dirty heads. The boy gave her a dismissive gesture of the head. Antonina quickly turned on her heel and stormed out of the room and into the corner of which she had taken up residence since the previous day. Her stomach began to hurt as if someone had just went and punched through it leaving a hollow hole. She hated everything about her new found circumstances and was completely fed up with her surroundings.
“Are you hungry?” Startled Antonina, rose her head from her hands to find the boy standing above her with a bowl of food in his stained hands.
“Excuse me?”
“Don’t tell, but I kept some for you. But don’t think it’s happening again” He handed the bowl to Antonina. She snatched it without thinking and devoured the contents within two minutes. She watched the boy’s face as she finished. He was laughing.
“Funny, how hunger changes some people” He sighed. Antonina thanked him profoundly for his generosity that could probably cost him a lot of trouble. The boy dismissed her gratefulness. They talked for over an hour and about their disparate lives. This was when Antonina found out his name was Dmitri and that his parents died when he was young leaving him in the care of his uncle of whom was the older man that Antonina had guessed. Antonia enlightened Dmitri in her story only to realise how mere and simple her life she had been in comparison. It had never occurred to her that when Anna and Galina managed to provide the girl’s at the orphanage with the basics, it was near enough the best. Dmitri excused himself before heading back over to the side of his blundering uncle. Dmitri’s uncle was a large man with a rather large stomach as if he had been overfed. The skin on his face was far from cared for, in fact it was red and blotchy with flaking pieces of skin falling from his chin. Antonina worried that maybe she might turn out like that in her later years. Unsurprisingly, she hoped not.

1917

Things were getting worse by every passing day. The rations were deteriorating rapidly breeding an outbreak on the streets of unsatisfied protests. The government no longer seemed to care about their people. Although, it been that way for several years. Antonina had been struggling through her new but rather despairing lifestyle for two whole years and was growing into a more mature independent young woman in spite the difficulty. Her daily routine consisted of rising early at dawn, checking for any some drip of water of which there was frequently none. Then she would often stumble upon Dmitri busy with the morning supplies. Recently, she had discovered these supplies were provided by from the black market. The breakfast meal would be scarce and barley anything. Afterwards Antonina helped the ill fated mothers with their health and up keeping of their children. She was glad to be of any assistance possible. Most days, the house would receive a pathetic excuse of a dinner but still, that was not always too common. Antonina attempted to sleep at night, yet the cold and reality of Russia’s harsh circumstances prohibited her eyes from easily drifting of into a fantasy of dreams.
She startlingly awoke this morning. There was an awful noise coming from outside. Men and women were storming up the parade of streets. They marched in chorus sporting large banners of protest. They were peasants in their dowdy excuses for clothes. The tattered rags hung from their owners as if for dear life, they were sick and old almost ready to die. The faces of the protesters were of sheer determination. United in the light of justice. Many painted a smile on their face as if they actually believed what they were doing would help them at all. The masses and masses of people chanted in unison for peace, the end of the war and the most desired of all, food. Antonina sighed and stepped back from the window. She often struggled to comprehend why Russian’s civilian’s demonstrated so much, as she understood the Tsar was only doing the best he could. Of course, it was difficult but he could not help that the war had begun and nor could he stop it completely. No amount of protests, as she saw it, would bring an end to this great war. The whole world was probably feeling the exact same way. Soon after the war, if it ever ended, thing’s would get better. Antonina grabbed a shawl that lay over the edge of a broken chair. She quickly made her way down the stairs expecting to be greeted by the stressed face of Dmitri. Antonina checked the kitchen and still could not find him. Matter of fact, she found the house to be basically empty. It seemed abandoned as if everyone had just upped and left suddenly. Antonina sat on the stairs waiting with her head in her hands shuffling her feet on the dusty floor.
No-one appeared and it dawned on Antonina that maybe they had all participated in the protest. But why? There had been so many in the last few weeks and yet, only the worker’s had joined in, from that steel factory. Her co-inhabitants had only watched like she had. Reluctantly, Antonina wrapped the shawl tighter around her shoulders. She pulled the door open a crack, enough to subtly squeeze through. There was little room to walk and so she was forced to blend into the angry crowd. She surveyed the heads of the people but as she expected found an increasingly laborious task to locate anyone of recoginition. The faces merged into each other, every one a shade of dull colour. She continued marching alongside these people, of whom she wished would just give up and go home and wait until the war ceased. As the protester’s marched and marched many were becoming tired and a little exhausted. The women especially, were getting weaker by the step.

Bang! Screams rippled through the crowd until everyone was retreating, yelling and screaming in fear.
“Excuse me, what was that? What’s happened?” Antonina desperately tried to catch someone’s attention but they were only concentrating on finding safety. Many other shot’s rang out into the mob’s of Russians. Antonina stopped upon realising what the noise was. The people were being shot at. Antonina quickly began to catch up with all the others for somewhere unknown, somewhere to hide. Women cried out, men budged past one another and many fell tripping over the feet of terrified fellow activist’s. Antonina watched the faces turning from desperate to despair. She abruptly turned remembering Dmitri, she had to find him, to make sure he wasn’t shot, he wasn’t dead. As she hastily scrambled between the herds, she noticed two tsarist soldiers running amongst the others. They were equally terrified and moved with the same air of desperation. She would have preferred to have pondered on this occurrence for a little longer, but there were more important matters at hand to deal with first.
Subconciously Antonina had surveyed in total twenty five tsarist soldiers go passed her in floods. She wondered, then, who on earth was shooting. Granted, the shot’s had died down but death was still all around. Antonina reached an empty area of land. This vast space was filled with bodies of the victims armed with banners. There was a pungent smell of blood pouring into the atmosphere. The deceased bodies were fresh but would soon rot and the smell would be all too unbearable. Each body seemed to have occupied their own space, hence there was a neat path trailing in and around them. The ground was a dark shade of dirty red. It spelled out an evident warning not to near it. However, Antonina did not heed the warning and stepped into the forbidden hell. She pulled at her sleeve, grasping enough material to cover her disgusted nostrils. Fear and tears struck her at once making a terrible emotional mix. Never before, had she set eyes on death but here it was in a foreboding number, right in her face. Antonina knelt down to inspect but could not find Dmitri, which she supposed was altogether a good sign. Antonina narrowed her eyes trying to concentrate on a familiar sight. She advanced towards it, scanning from left to right each passing head. Antonina backed firmly away from the sight before her knees gave way dropping her kneeling to the harsh ground like a Christian in prayer. For what she saw, was not the dead face of Dmitri but of a dear friend and the most caring person she had ever known. It happened to be the unfortunates of Galina Nemtsov that Antonina was looking upon. She kissed the forehead of her friend attempting to wipe away the tears. She had not known that maybe Galina was in so much trouble but then again, perhaps this situation was as bad as now it seemed. How could the Tsar do this to his own people? People who were as caring as Galina?

Antonina trudged down the empty streets. Everyone was hiding in fear. The dark alleyways once again, housed the many faces of the poor. There was not a word whispered in the cold wind. The blood was wafting through the cracks of the pavement and split wooden doors, reminding each and every person of that days events. Antonina did not much care that she was being watched by numerous people, curious about why this girl would be so visibly sauntering down the middle of the roads. Antonina entered the old house, aware that it was full by now. The candlelit hall was fit to burst by the vast bodies of wounded protesters receiving aid. She squeezed through them, heading upstairs. Someone grabbed her arm.
“Jeez! I was really worried. Do you know I thought you may be dead. What were you doing?” Dmitri shook his head either in relief or anger, it was difficult to tell. He pulled her closer into an awkward embrace. Antonina remained stiff and silent. She pulled back and climbed the stairs pausing briefly before each step. Dmitri studied her behaviour considering she was just in a state of shock, although it had already occurred to him that this morning she didn’t even take part in the protest. Therefore, what was she doing?

Whilst the house was silent, Antonina sliced back the cover she had over her. She grabbed a candle before slowly tip toeing down the stairs. She hoped the quietness was definitely due to sleep. The small pool of light emitted from the candle would have to do but it dawned on Antonina that it was pitch black and nearly too hard to see where she was going. Opening the door, she crept along the pavement until she appeared at the second left alleyway.
“Hello?” She called out into the blinding blackness. A tall, young skinny man stood opposite her. He wore a fickle pair of spectacles balancing on the bridge of his drooping nose. In his hand were a bunch of leaflets. Antonina smiled.
“Shall I start, then?” She asked. Antonina had come across this figure earlier that evening after finding Galina. He had told her exactly what to do if she wanted revenge. He had explained to meet him here if she decided to accept. The man handed her half of the leaflets. Each one the same with a clear message: Join the Soviets and they will take Russia out of the war. Antonina clutched the pieces of paper in her shaking hands. Naturally, she was nervous but also, she felt a slightly excited.
“Yes, on you go. Anywhere you can think of just get them out there!” The man turned swiftly through the other side of the alleyway. Antonina found herself alone. There was no sound, it was as if no one even lived there. The morning was slowly rising timing down the hours that Antonina had to complete her assigned task. She slipped papers under doors, through broken windows. If she saw anyone she would be sure to give one to them. She was running out of options and decided to just throw a bundle over her head landing scattered on the ground all over. Hopefully they wouldn’t just get trodden on maybe someone would pick one up. She was aware many were illiterate but the picture carried the message well. It should bread, lot’s of it and of soldiers happily returning to Russia with no weapons. For a second, Antonina hesitated she felt wary of this sudden change of heart but as she neared the site of blood once more. She grew more adamant than ever, that what she doing she right.

Every leaflet had been delivered in some form. Antonina scurried back into the house and up the stairs. She waited for the day to beckon and see the results of her midnight


.

December 1917
Finally, Lenin and the Bolsheviks were in power. Antonina had worked and worked for this. She had fought for the October revolution, she had done everything she could. She could not lie, it had been the most difficult time in her life. There was a considerable amount of oppostion. However, Antonina felt extremely proud knowing she had fought for justice for her friend. How could anyone want the Tsar back after what he had done? At least Lenin had made women equal to men and wages equalized for all workers. Antronina failed to see the problem that some people had with their new government. Dmitri had stood strong against Lenin, this frustrated Antonina profoundly. What did he want? This argument always went the same way:
“First you wanted rid of the Tsar and autocracy and still your not happy even though Lenin is completely different!” Dmitri would shake his head and narrow his eyes.
“Well, Antonina you aren’t one to talk. You loved the Tsar and suddenly your running away with Lenin!” Antonina would grow angrier due to his lack of an answer.
“Huh! I’ve told you why. Now, what about you?” She would say stomping her foot in an impatient pattern.
“Antonina I am, was a businessman and look what they’ve done to my business.” Antonina would argue that the Russia had been withdrawn from the war but Dmitri stood strong. Frankly, Antonina was fed up with Dmitri and his ever changing wants and needs. Dmitri actually had another major reason to fear the Bolsheviks but he was wary of letting Antonina know. It would shatter her. Dmitri had to be extremely careful from known on what he said to her in those arguments otherwise he could find himself in deep, deep trouble. Afterall he did not fancy his chances against the Cheka.

1918

Russia was in ruins. The Bolsheviks, known as the communists did not deliver on their promises and civil war had broke out. Nobody was equal and did not receive the promised peace, bread and land. Antonina was on the red’s side of the civil war and ended in a furious dispute with Dmitri resulting in her, once again, living on the streets. She whole heartedly belived everything that Lenin said or did. Only the white’s could see him for what he was, a dictator and although Dmitri had tried to help him friend it had failed on so many occasions he had to give up.
The streets were ever more dangerous. Antonina longed to be in the safety of the house but she couldn’t live with the traitors. She had renamed the house The Whites Home. Everyone there was against Lenin. They had even resorted to saying they wanted the monarchy back





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