Azerbaijan International

Spring 1999 (7.1)
Page 51

World War II

Yusif Samadoglu

Children's Game of 1946
For Azeri version in Latin script.

Azerbaijani kidsIn "A Children's Game of 1946," Yusif Samadoglu immerses the reader in a child's game of make-believe. A young girl, Sakina, is playing with a doll named Gular-the kind of doll that opens and shuts its eyes when it's picked up or laid down. Sakina's playmates are six childmates; three of them are her pretend "sons" - the other three are the enemy. As the game progresses, the tragic effects of war become more than just make-believe.

Left: One of kids' favorite pastimes - playing war - popular in any era. Baku 1995. Photo: Litvin

Sakina got angry. "We agreed that I wasn't going to die. Besides, you never even shot at me." The enemy laughed again. "You're alone. We've thrown the atom bomb!"

-Yusif Samadoglu

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They were surrounded - there was no way out. They sat with their heads hanging low. All three of them were face to face with death. None of them wanted to die - not Siavush, or Karim, or Nazim - but there was little choice: either be taken captive or be killed. The enemy had already threatened to drop an atom bomb on them if they did not surrender. They themselves had no atom bomb; they had forgotten theirs at home.

Sakina, the mother of Siavush, Karim and Nazim, was also there in the trench. She was holding Gulzar, a tiny doll, close to her chest, the only sister of the three brothers, and was singing a lullaby to her:

"Sleep my baby, softly sleep,
The daisies are also asleep."

"Now your brothers will go off to fight," she said. "They'll shoot and kill the enemies. Then they'll come back as victors. And then we'll go home and have lunch. Do you know what we'll have for lunch? A sweet bun, as big as that! I made it myself. It tastes delicious. Only you must behave yourself. If you cry, I'll leave you here surrounded by the enemy and you'll get no bun at all. Is that clear?"

Sakina lifted Gulzar up. The doll opened its eyes immediately and closed them again as soon as its mother laid it down.

"Sleep, little daughter," Sakina said, pressing the doll's head to her chest. "In the evening, I'll take you for a walk and then give you a bath. But no crying, mind you!

"Sleep my baby, softly sleep,
The daisies are also asleep."

When Sakina raised her head, she no longer saw her sons. "You see, Daughter. Your brothers left. Now they are shooting-pah, pah, pah! Soon they'll be back and we'll go home. Sleep now, sleep..."

Suddenly someone shouted, "Eh, Sakina!"

She looked in the direction of the voice and saw at the end of the trench, above a pile of crates, three enemy soldiers. One of them snatched up a pistol with a barrel so long that it looked like a rifle with a broken butt.
He aimed it at Sakina: "Why are you still alive?"

Sakina pursed her lips. "And why should I be dead?" she replied. "We agreed from the very start that I wouldn't die!" The enemy laughed. Brandishing his weapon, he shouted, "You aren't playing by the rules! Your three sons are dead!"

Sakina got angry. "So what if they're dead? We agreed that I wasn't going to die. Besides, you never even shot at me." The enemy laughed again. "You're alone. We've thrown the atom bomb! Over there, right next to the trench. So you must be dead, too."

As Sakina jumped up, the doll fell down with a bang. The child picked it up quickly and brushed the dust off its light yellow hair. "Nothing of the kind," she said. "We agreed beforehand that I wasn't going to die. You're the one who isn't playing by the rules!"

There was a short silence. Then another enemy soldier approached and gave a burst from his tommy - gun into the air. "Okay," he said. "Have it your own way. But when an atom bomb goes off, radioactive rays spread out. They blind people"

Nobody seemed to understand what radioactive rays were. The tommy-gunner, noticing general bewilderment, blinked and explained somewhat hesitantly: "Of course...Father says that when an atom bomb goes off, radioactive rays spread out. And they blind everyone"

Sakina shook her head and said stubbornly: "You're all liars!"

A third enemy soldier came up. "All right, if you don't want to die, you don't have to...but you have lost three sons. You must go crazy from grief!"

After a moment's consideration, Sakina nodded. She pulled the red ribbons out of her neatly braided pigtails, shook her hair over her shoulders and opened her eyes in a mad stare.

The enemies jumped down to the ground, and with shouts of "Hurrah!" ran off somewhere.

The mother, who had gone mad, began to sing the lullaby again:'

"Sleep my baby, softly sleep,
The daisies are also asleep."

Then she spoke softly to the doll, "Your brothers have all died. They'll never come back. They were killed by an atom bomb. Now you're my only child. I have no one else. Only you. You see, your mother has gone mad with grief. You mustn't cry, you mustn't be naughty. Now we'll go home and I'll give you a sweet bun. Then we'll bury your brothers. OK? Well, let's go."

Sakina picked up the doll. But the doll's eyes would not open. Something had jiggled inside the doll's head; apparently the mechanism was broken. Sakina shook the doll, but Gulzar's eyes remained shut. The young mother, in tears, cried out, "Open your eyes!"

But the doll's long eyelashes remained motionless as if glued to its cheeks. The only sister of the three brothers, Sakina's last child, had been blinded.

Translated by Diana Russell for "Soviet Literature," Savva Dangulov, editor, published by the Writer's Union of the USSR, Vol. 9, 1978.

From Azerbaijan International (7.1) Spring 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.

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