Grigorii Dudko Finds Friends

S. Gushkov, Grigorii Dudko Finds Friends. December 1, 1953


Original Source: Komsomol’skaia pravda, 1 December 1953.

Taganrog. When the train came into the station, Nadyusha Samarina’s mother gave her one final embrace and, glancing at a young fellow impatiently shifting from foot to foot, said:

“Now, Grishenka, look after her at school. After all, she’s just a girl.”

Grigorii Dudko assured her gaily:

“Don’t worry, Mama. You can depend on me.”

He obligingly offered the girl his arm, but she backed away:

“You-a guardian! All I need now is a nurse.”

Grigorii did not get a chance to respond to this joking remark. Nadia climbed into the coach, and the train pulled out.

On to Taganrog! Grigorii did not even notice that Nadia did not sit-beside him in the train but off to the side with some strange girls. He looked out the window, and his thoughts were just as fleeting and colorful as the landscape flashing by the train.

In a few days Grigorii put on his uniform overcoat with its shining letters “RU-15” on the lapels, It had turned out just as he wished; he was registered in the electric -welding group. Nadia decided to study lathe operation. In her new clothes she seemed to Grigorii tiny and slender-almost a little girl.

“But she still puts on airs,” he thought with resentment.

The resentment, however, was soon forgotten, as was the promise Grigorii had given Nadia Samarina’s mother. All his free time was spent at books on electrical engineering and special technology. His comrades elected him the group’s Young Communist League organizer. There was no time even to look up before the year had flown unnoticeably by. Sometimes Grigorii saw Nadia, but he did not manage to have a good talk with her or to ask her about life.

That autumn Grigorii requested permission to attend evening classes. Permission was granted, and he received excellent grades. At school Grigorii became acquainted with Deev, a tall, flashily dressed fellow with a thin, sarcastic -looking face.

He came up to Grigorii between classes, clapped him on the shoulder and remarked:

‘Say, pal, are you any relation to Newton? You’re pretty good at math, but I don’t know a thing about it. I’m really in the dark. How about letting me sit with you?”

Grigorii did not object; in fact he was flattered by attention from such a sophisticated- seeming youth. They sat together. Grigorii often had to solve problems for his comrade or whisper an answer during a question period. This was not much work for him, and Victor always told him a great deal that was new to Grigorii. Once Grigorii asked:

“Where do you work, Victor?”

The young man chuckled:

“Why work? Anyone with a head on his shoulders can get along without working. I wouldn’t even have begun to study, but Dad wouldn’t give me any rest.’ …

Once, after an exam, Deev took Grigorii by the sleeve and, making a face, asked:

“Couldn’t you dress a little better?”

Grigorii wanted to object and say that his uniform was not so bad, but for some reason he decided not to but simply nodded his head affirmatively.

“Well, then, drop in on my girl friend tomorrow,” he said, giving Grigorii the address. “We’ll sit around, talk a little and have a drink.”

After this first party came a second and a third. Grigorii’s life changed its course. These new friends fascinated him. When he finished school and went to work at the plant, the shop seemed unpleasant and much too quiet.

… Grigorii slowly raised his heavy eyelids. Before him, behind the table, grandfather Ivan Stepanovich, the man with whom Grigorii shared an apartment, was bending over the clock and softly humming the same tune over and over. What is more, the song could not be heard; only the ends of his tobacco-stained mustache would raise and then lower. Grigorii sat up, pressed his hands tightly to his heavy head.

“You’re awake, hero?” asked Ivan Stepanovich. “I’m repairing the clock; it stopped. Come and help me.”

Grigorii did not answer at once. His head sank lower and lower finally with difficulty he said in a forced, strained voice:

“Later, grandfather.”

He was silent for a moment, and then said quietly:

“They expelled me from the Young Communist League.”

Ivan Stepanovich did not answer.

“The old man didn’t hear me,” Grigorii decided. “He’s grown a little deaf-he doesn’t hear-”

Suddenly Grigorii was terrified. Who would hear him? Who would understand him? His father? No. He was an Army captain, deserving of praise and honor; he had been greatly pleased when Grigorii displayed his new YCL card. Victor? He recalled his drinking companion’s insolent eyes and his free and easy voice:

“What’s the use of harping on it, pal? Forget it! It could be worse. You can live without the Young Communist League. I do; it’s nothing-”

Grigorii rose, drank a glass of water, and went down to the courtyard. There was a freshness from the sea. In the dark sky, the cold stars were winking at each other off in the distance. There was an unbearable pain in his heart.

“Should I go away somewhere?”

Then suddenly he remembered Nadia. He needed her now.

… After one of Grigorii’s frequent absences from work, the shop foreman said he could no longer let Dudko work. The YCL bureau met, and Dudko was expelled from the organization.

What will become of Grigorii? After the meeting, the aktiv did not disperse for a long time. They decided that the best checkup on themselves and on Grigorii would be a shop meeting.

A troubled, disturbed feeling came over Nadia after Grigorii’s unexpected night visit. From his sudden proposal and confused speech, she guessed that Grigorii had become involved in something unpleasant and did not know what to do.

They sat on a bench in front of the house in which Nadia rented an apartment together with her friends. Grigorii was chilly and wrapped himself in a coat one of the girls brought out to him; his voice trembled:

“Marry me, Nadia. We’ll go off somewhere-I’ll be good to you and won’t make you stand behind a lathe.”

What could Nadia say to him? She had been expecting a heart-to-heart talk with Grigorii perhaps as far back as that time when he unexpectedly compelled her to leave the park, and then afterward when he blushed, became confused and could not explain why he had done it. She had later expected a talk during the frequent short meetings when she gave him the handkerchiefs and collars she had washed. She had waited, but nothing had happened….

Nadia learned to do a considerable number of complex operations on the lathe with the help of the skilled workers. Even the shop foreman praised her for her inventiveness and skill. Nadia became closely attached to her comrades, with whom she shared the joy of work each day. And Grigorii was suggesting she leave the job, the work she loved so much. What would she do outside the plant?

“You’re not listening to me, Nadia?” Grigorii asked. “Don’t you believe me?”

Nadia came out of her daze and, looking into her comrade’s eyes, said heatedly:

“And you, Grigorii, do you believe yourself? How did you begin living this way? And in general-”

A lump rose in her throat, and she could no longer hold back her tears. “I didn’t expect that of you.”

Yes, she had thought about him; but why had he hidden his failures at work? Why, except in jest, had he never talked to her about what he planned to do-about his goals? Can you really hide from someone you consider your friend? So it happened they were not speaking the same language now.

Grigorii silently listened to the girl. A warm feeling of gratitude and something more than mere respect for a friend rose within him. Indecisively he touched the girl’s hand:

“Forgive me, Nadia! I know what I have to do. I’ll tell you all about it.”

The meeting was crowded and noisy … Vasilii Erbenev, a former sailor and one of Grigorii’s comrades, came straight from his shift, wiping his big hands with a rag. Grigorii looked at his calm, serious face, and for some reason very much wanted Vasilii to sit beside him. When Nadia Samarina indecisively looked through the door from the Red Corner and then entered, chose a seat at the back and began to work her way toward it, Grigorii blushed and bit his dried lips. He wanted right now, without waiting for the meeting to begin, to stand up and frankly announce to his comrades that he, Grigorii Dudko, was guilty before them.

He said just that when Babichenakh gave him the floor. Grigorii thought that immediately afterward it would become easier for him, that the fiery tint of shame would no longer burn his face, but the audience for some reason remained guardedly and distrustfully silent. Among the dozens of eyes were a pair whose glance pierced his very heart–Nadezhda Samarina’s.

“May I ask a question?” a calm, deep voice rang out from somewhere in the depths of the hall. “So Dudko considers himself just a bad boy up to this time? He’s done something wrong and has asked forgiveness. But where is his worker’s conscience? How does he explain his deeds?”

Grigorii grew pale.

“There’s no use explaining. I’m guilty.”

Then his comrades spoke-Vasilii Erbenev, the crane operator and shop veteran “Aunt Sonya” Dvoinikova, the lathe brigade leader Vladimir Kucherenko, and many others. Grigorii for the first time noticed what interesting and sincere people surrounded him in the shop and how many genuine good friends he could have. At the meeting it was decided to ask the shop foreman to keep Grigorii in his job but to reprimand him severely.

The next day Grigorii lay in the hospital. The doctors diagnosed the sickness as a severe form of grippe. He lay on his snow-white bed as if on coals, not because his high temperature would not let him rest but because it hurt terribly to be alone with himself again. His comrades, however, remembered him. Ivan Babichenakh, the YCL organizer, was the first to visit him; then Vasilii Erbenev, holding on to the white hospital smock to keep it from slipping from his broad shoulders, elbowed his way through the door. For some reason or other he was in a hurry, saying that someone else wanted to see Grigorii. After quickly saying goodbye, he threw open the door, cheerfully winked at Grigorii and let an embarrassed girl with a large bouquet of flowers into the ward.

Every morning a young couple go through the gate of a small, neat house in one of the Taganrog workers’ settlements; it is the Dudkos. They walk along the deserted, quiet settlement streets without haste. Near the plant there are more people, and a thick stream of workers is already flowing through the factory gates. The young people stop for a second, then go to their shops. Grigorii works in the first machine shop as before, and Nadia in the electrode shop. Grigorii’s comrades often laugh at the fact that he cannot take a step without consulting his wife: just try to cook without electrodes! Not so very much time has gone by since Grigorii’s memorable YCL meeting but much has changed in his life. He has become the best welder in the shop and also a brigade leader. There have been changes in grandfather Ivan Stepanovich’s little house, where the couple settled down. The old clock, set going by the combined efforts of Ivan Stepanovich and Grigorii, steadily ticks off the seconds, and Gennadii Dudko does not grow stronger by the day but by the hour. It is only two months since he settled in this house, and he is only a bit larger than he was at birth, but no one calls him anything but his full name and patronymic Gennadii Grigorevich.

Source: Current Digest of the Soviet Press, Vol. I, No. 50 (1953), pp. 12-13.


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