Ava Taurel: Visiting My Childhood Home by Eva Norvind
As I stood there and stared at the old wooden house where I once lived as a child, the impact was very strong. My mother had never made me forget I was born the daughter of Price Paulovi Chegodaf Sakonsky, and we lived in my mother’s stately family home where we couldn’t afford the maintenance. I was afraid to enter the building which had now become government property and declared a national landmark. This was my first trip back to Norway after having lived many years in different countries.
With the exception of the big chestnut, tree, the large garden was completely run down. Gone was the gazebo where my mother used to tell me fairy tales, gone was the doll house where I first played mommy and daddy games with the neighborhood children. The ground was hardened courtyard now, while in those days the earth was pliable, as my younger brother and I would dig bones out of the garden and hide them in the basement. We had quite a collection of skeletons from the monks that had been buried here a century earlier, when our property was a monastery. Next to the doll house I had found a dead bird which I had brought to my mother. It was my first encounter with death aside from the skeletons. Sometimes I had been visited by a long gowned, dark clad woman with the face of a dead bird. My mother had convinced me this was not a dream but the ghost of one of the monks.
This day I rang the doorbell of the building where I had spent the first seven years of my life. A man in working clothes opened the door. He told me he was a sculptor. All the rooms in the house were now studios for artists with scholarships. I explained my visit and asked if I could walk around. I was grateful he opened the doors for me and let me be by myself.
I looked out of the windows that once had seemed so large. I saw myself as a little girl running across the yard with food coupons for the nearby store. I didn’t remember the bombings by the Germans, nor the shelters where we would hide underground, as I was one year old when the war ended. I did remember how scarce the food was during the years that followed as we used to present coupons in order to eat.
Both my parents had worked as translators for the Nazi party in Norway . They wore Nazi uniforms and had read “Mein Kampf”. They claim they never knew the horrors that were happening then. A an adult I have often asked myself which were the values of these parents who had engendered me and who had given me so much love. Even if they were ignorant of many things, what could motivate anyone to work for someone who invades your homeland? As a Russian refugee Prince, living in fear of Communism and without a work permit, my father worked for the Nazis because only they would give him work. But what would excuse my mother? My father fainted once when he was asked to translate during the torture of a Russian who was believed to be a Communist . As both my parents slowly awaked to the Nazi injustice, they starting passing information to the Resistance.
After a time in prison and after the war, my father was completely cleared through a process in court which showed his many courageous deeds. He was therefore granted Norwegian citizenship. In the years to follow, they both developed strong favoritism towards anyone who was Jewish, to a point which makes me wonder if they unconsciously tried to compensate for their initial guilt feelings. My father is now married to a Jewish woman from St. Petersburg. He claims he might be Jewish himself as he believes he is the son of a Jewish physician with whom his mother had an affair while distanced from her husband.
Most of my mother’s paintings and sculptures were commissioned by Jewish people. She has also had several Jewish lovers and talks of being Jewish as being better than anyone else. I’m almost afraid of letting her know who of my friends are Jewish because she tends to forget that they are normal people, and treats them as Superhumans.
I walked around in the space that had been our living room, then filled with heavy antique furniture, now filled with heavy memories. In this space the family had been united. We had spent loving moments together here and had decorated many Christmas trees. It was also in this space that my father told my brother and me that there was no God anymore, as he showed us a small wooden figure which he called Bugada. “This might as well be God,” he claimed. It was here I secretly cut out pictures from my father;s newspaper of Stalin, which I hid under my pillow at night. I worshiped Stalin as one would worship a forbidden fruit. I found him terribly attractive, and I was fearful my father would find out.
It was in this same living room that I met my father’s women. Their beauty made a memorable impression on me. Astrid, with jet black hair, white skin, red lips and dressed in deep violet, reminded me of Snow White grown up. Her sister, Ella, had curly brown, short hair and a friendly smile and dressed in pink. While Astrid would talk to me, Ella sometimes would give me a bath. They were both my father’s lovers. Confident that he would faithfully return to her, my mother introduced him to women she knew he would find attractive.
My father was a virgin when he married my mother. She found it natural for a man to know more than one women in his life. There was a succession of beautiful women, but my father never returned to monogamy. Once my mother contemplated suicide. She was thinking of jumping off the train when my father let one of his mistresses join us during our summer vacation. He dreamt of going to Morocco and having a harem. My mother, who was wonderful with the children, he thought, would educate any offspring he might have from other women. With this in mind, he assiduously studied Arabic and only allowed Arabic music to be played at home. I spent hours looking at his complete and illustrated collection of 1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS.
One day a tall, blond Viking delivered sand for our sandbox. As I looked out the window at the hard ground outside, I bitterly remembered the sand which was the instrument which would change my life. My mother took us to the sand mountain and asked us what we though of the man who had become her friend. Naturally we like him since he let us glide down the mountain. Little did we know then that soon afterwards she would run away from my father, take us with her, and eventually marry her new friend. We were not allowed to see our father again until many years later.
Alexa’s Note: One cleans one’s storage spaces. One finds things. These typed pages were given to me to read by Ava several years before her Mexican death.