Human memory is remarkable to me in the sense that small details such as smell, sound, texture, color, taste can elicit powerful images in our brain. Words too, like physical senses, evoke memories and trigger physical and emotional responses.
Every time I read or hear the word “Kursk,” a face of an old woman instantly appears before my eyes. Each passing year, another layer of memory dust covers her features slowly fading away her sorrow ridden face into eternal abyss. Her eyes, however, still pierce through my heart today as they did 15 years ago. She lost her son in the Kursk submarine disaster.
I was following the story on one of the news channels in the United States. They showed a segment from Russian news, in which a TV reporter tried asking the old woman questions about the incident. She turned to him, her motherly eyes filled with tears of despair and unimaginable loss. All she could utter to him was “forgive me.” She couldn’t talk. The ground was slipping from under her old and weary feet. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. Not in her world, not in any world.
My eyes filled with tears. I felt ashamed, helpless, and angry. We should be asking her to forgive us for our silence, for our inertness, for our indifference. Fifteen years ago, my pain found its release on a blank piece of paper, and today I would like to share the image that has been kept alive in my memory for so long.
She quietly whispered,
And tears ran down her cheeks.
“My son. He is dead now.”
“My tears. Can’t hold them.”
No need to hold them,
To ask for forgiveness,
No need to explain anything.
We failed you, your son, and with him
Another hundred and seventeen.
All buried now under the Barents Sea
In the casket called “Kursk” submarine.
Her words struck my heart and my mind.
It echoed within me
A hundred and eighteen times.
Your tears and loss?
Oh god, I pray you forgive us
For carrying our own cross,
For silence and indifference –
We all are guilty of those!
Forgive us and teach us to care,
To cherish this life even more.
Forgive us and in the hour of despair,
Unite us like never before.
“Forgive me,” she quietly whispered.
“Forgive me,” I answered to her.
The photo above tells a story of a crew member who died in the Kursk submarine disaster. His name was Borisov A. M. He hoped to be saved, but if worse came to worst, Borisov left a note to his family:
“My dear ones, Natasha and sonny Sasha!!! If you have this letter, then I am gone. I love you both very much. Natasha, forgive me for everything. Sashulya, be a man. I kiss you both warmly. Borisov A. M.”