Mikheil Antadze, a young, aspiring director is today’s guest of the blog. Here is a short story by him.
Two years after the Georgian-Russian war, I was staying in Gori, hired by a local newspaper to take pictures of the ongoing rebuilding effort. My employer arranged for me to stay with a distant relative of his, Uncle Vano. (Actually, Uncle Vano was nobody’s Uncle, but insisted that everybody, including me, must address him this way.) He gave me a bed under a massive portrait of Stalin, Gori’s most famous son. After this, we rarely interacted, except for breakfast, when he would go into loud, mad rants about the government, conspiracies and the low market demand for crops he never even collected from his farm. I had to, of course, agree or he would go into a rant about how the youth of today has no respect for the older generation.
You can imagine how surprised I was when one night, he burst into my room only in his underwear, yelling “They’re taking away Uncle Soso!”
I sprang up, and asked him “What is the matter, Uncle Vano?”
“They’re taking away Uncle Soso, you fool! Grab your camera and follow me”
I had no idea who Uncle Soso was, or what was Vano talking about, and at this time of night couldn’t care less, but could not risk missing a photo opportunity.
I got up, put on my shirt, and followed him through the halls of the massive apartment building. He went on, energetically limping in front of me, crying out the same phrase over and over. “They’re taking away Uncle Soso! They’re taking away Uncle Soso!” Some neighbors got out. One old woman got in his way and hissed “Serves him right, that monster. The shame of our town, the shame” Vano pushed her out of the way, saying “Silent, woman! Woe is me, woe is me!” and continued to lead the way. At this point I realized something serious was happening. I put my hand affectionately on his shoulder and slowly asked him: “What is going on, Uncle Vano? Who is taking away Uncle Soso?”
“The government is, the secret police is, they came in cars at night and now they’re taking him away, away!” We got to a window in the western end of the hallway, and he pointed his finger out. I saw a squad of police cars surrounding the statue of Joseph “Soso” Stalin. I tried to take a picture, but all that would come out would be a window reflecting Vano and me on one side, and police siren lights on the other.
“Does this window open, Uncle Vano?”
“Uncle Soso” said Uncle Vano.
“Uncle Soso” echoed the hallway.
I helped myself with the window and adjusted the exposure settings, but suddenly I heard Vano Shriek. I turned back and saw him grab his heart and turn pale. He fell down, and I grabbed his hand to check his pulse. It was beating faster and faster. Behind me I heard a loud bang. They ripped out Stalin’s statue out of the ground. Vano opened his eyes for the last time. A tear rolled down his cheeks and got stuck in his moustache. I got up and called for help.
A week later I would come into the room where I once slept. A coffin replaced the bed. Stalin’s picture was taken down, now replaced by a portrait of Uncle Vano.