First of all thank you for your kind concern about my nephew. He's absolutely fine. Their car, however......
And now my post. (Forgive me for not editing it well. I feel rather overwhelmed.)
As a fourth grader my mother thought Japanese writers were able to capture the human spirit most eloquently. Then she was introduced to Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. She was astounded at the beautiful writing of Russian authors. From that point on she couldn't get enough of Russian literature. "What an amazing, refined people," she thought.
Then came the aftermath of the war with no peace in sight.
These are the words I've translated from her memories this morning.
"That front line of Russian soldiers included women and they were truly the dregs of humanity. Criminals! Prisoners! They showed no mercy and seemed to be ravenous savages. I'd thought Russians were all beautiful and suddenly here were these horrible soldiers who murdered, raped and beat us. Many people came to the temple for comfort and were gathered in the hondo (main hall). The soldiers would come and take pleasure in hurting people and raping the women. One woman had just given birth three days before. She was taken and raped. She died soon after. The Russian soldiers showed no shame in having sex out in public, sometimes in front of their own comrades with each other. It was madness! My friend was gang raped and I went to see her in the hospital. She had been the most beautiful girl with red cheeks and the sweetest disposition. I hated and feared the Russians then.
But no, they weren't all bad. Following the front line were kinder, more disciplined, civilized Russians. One of the girls fell in love with a Russian officer. He began trying to help everyone, distributing brown rice to as many people as he could. There was another young Russian boy named Sasha with blue eyes. He missed his mother and would come to the hondo to help the old women. I saw him carrying an old woman and calling her "Mama." These were the Russians I had read about.
No people are all bad. However, war brings insanity. I've lived through that insanity and know how lucky I am. I was so happy with my famly before the war. Life was perfect. Then came hell. Now I am older and I'm happiest of all."
When I first started this project, talking about her past gave her nightmares. When she worked at the newspaper, the editor wanted her to talk about her history so they could publish it. (The photo on the left is one they published when they needed somebody to advertise Ajinomoto.) She refused because it was too painful to remember. Now she says she is having vivid dreams of her parents.
I was worried that talking about this would hurt her too much as it did when she told my son about some of it. However, as the days go by and we've looked at photos of the happier days and talked through the painful ones, I think I'm seeing some of the weight of her past agony smooth out. Now there are so many memories I can't keep up with it.
As I said, I'm overwhelmed. Sometimes I think I'm going to start seeing nightmares.