It was a hot day in Moscow. Kolya reached up to wipe away a bead of perspiration from his face. The searing sun did nothing to eradicate the dirt and grime on the old streets of Moscow. The buildings themselves had a black grimy discoloration from the coal in the factories. Kolya took no heed of it though. His object was at the end of the street. It was a relatively tall three story building that belonged to the corner of two streets. It was the Bolshevik headquarters in Moscow, and he was going to see his friend Ivan Stukov.
When he first arrived in Moscow, he had spent days trying to find remnants of his friends like Osinskii, and Stukov, maybe even Piatakov, and a few days ago he had finally succeeded. It turned out the headquarters had been moved now that the Bolsheviks didn’t have to hide out underground, and the new building in Moscow had become a rallying point for old Bolsheviks returning from exile.
The street was quiet except for the occasional passerby. The sun ensured that many would do their day to day tasks at a more enjoyable hour in the evening or morning. Far off in the distance, however, Bukharin could spot his old friend sitting with his back propped against the wall, having a smoke.
Kolya strode happily to his friend and plopped down next to him. The haze of smoke from the cigarette blended nicely with the haze rising from the sun’s rays impacting the earth. Ivan offered Kolya a drag, which he accepted willingly. It had been a long time since he’d had a smoke. It reminded him of his old school days back in the University. Those days seemed so long ago, so much had changed, they had been through so much. And yet, here he was, sitting with Stukov, having a drag, and it seemed as though nothing had changed at all. But everything had changed. He could tell something in those eyes had changed. There was an air of defiance or a coldness that had replaced the old geniality in his friend. His puffy dark hair had gained a couple small strands of white. Bukharin was glad to see they were still the same height, captivity hadn’t changed that, and it looked as though his friend was still unable to grow a mustache.
Bukharin smiled at his friend as he passed the cigarette back. It reminded him of back when Ivan had been the only one able to procure cigarettes and other desirables. His father had been a priest, and he had gone through school in psychoneuralosis before entering the University. He had been part of the privileged class before the war, and it was unlike many in the upper strata to join the cause of the Marxists, but Ivan had joined. He had a strong voice for someone so small, just like Kolya. But whereas Kolya ruled deliberations with his energy, Ivan had a tinge of calmness about him. He was energetic when he spoke, but there was a calming nature about it. It was as if he could reassure the loudest heart with his voice alone.
Together they had led the new Bolsheviks after 1905. And they were back again. They had both suffered much. It had pained Kolya to know how much his friend had suffered. He had been cast into exile in the Tomsk region from 1911-1917, he returned to find his family had disappeared during the course of those years. He guessed the Tsar had them exiled somewhere as well, but to where, he could only guess.
No, he had no family anymore, nor did Kolya. Their family was the Bolshevik party now. And words failed to express what it meant to have each other again.
“Where’d you get the cigarette?” Kolya asked with a wink. Ivan just grinned back blowing smoke at his grinning old friend. Kolya sputtered in the haze, but for a moment in time, he was back. Back to 1908, back to his carefree revolutionary self, unmarred by repression, the dust, the grime of time, they all faded away in that hazy smoke. Ivan laughed at the satisfied look on Kolya’s face, but he too knew the feeling. This time would be different. This time they could win.
© A River Runs Through It Photography