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This article is taken from PN Review 190, Volume 36 Number 2, November - December 2009.

A Ghostly Hum of Parallel Lines Marius Kociejowski

An elderly Uzbek with a long white beard clings for dear life to the side of a moving train. The year is 1942. Why he is doing so is because a few minutes earlier an NKVD officer, carrying a copy of the Tashkent edition of Pravda, stepped into the compartment where he was. Also seated there were three Poles who had just been released from one of the Gulag concentration camps north of the Arctic Circle. They were on a journey of unlikelihood that would finally take them to England, that is, if they did not first die of malnutrition or the typhus which had begun to claim thousands of lives. (There is a mass grave for Poles in Uzbekistan, near the village of Kirmine.) The old Uzbek was sitting with a basket of fruit and vegetables. The NKVD officer kept glaring at him from behind his newspaper whose name ironically translates as Truth and after a while, clearly taking exception to the Uzbek’s presence, he opened the door of the compartment and ordered him out. The old man showed his ticket but to no avail and so resignedly he picked up his basket of fruit and vegetables and stepped out into the corridor. The officer slammed the door shut behind him and said to the three Poles, ‘He stole these things from the collective farm and now he is taking them to the market to sell.’ One of the Poles asked him how come he knew the goods ...

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