Mikhail

In his eyes, there is snow, a thick and cold veil, frozen ashes from a winter without end. When he speaks of the past, his pupils move. They don’t know where to place themselves, despite the fatigue and the weight of the memories.

He knows. He saw.

His voice trembles as if the words demand to explode, to stain the ground with a memory that is too heavy. So he speaks. A lot. Very fast. He seems almost to vomit his words and his suffering to remove the streaks of blood embedded in his skull. But the snow doesn’t stay. It melts, little by little, during his account. From his damp look, he sweeps away the plains.

He saw the Nazis, the massacre of the Jews, the bullets in the neck at point blank range, the children dragged like dogs behind the cars, the mass grave being filled, the ground moving above the corpses.

He knows. He saw.

He crosses the field with misty eyes. He resees the horrors. When his gaze meets mine, I feel very small, ridiculously small, minuscule, a child who doesn’t know, who hasn’t seen. The muck of the war that I know only through books. Through his words, he reveals the unspeakable, the unimaginable. He gives back existence to all the disappeared. He has waited for us for a long time, for too long of a time. Would we have listened to him before?

He knows. He saw.

In his eyes, there was snow.

I like to think that it will no longer turn to ice.

A last look.

A handshake.

Tomorrow, we return to France.

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