Syedyshev Oleg
Syedyshev Oleg

Humorous Essays Based on students' memories

"All have died
except for those who are alive, and those whom we remember"Confucius

Essay 51. Gentlemen of luck

I loved to write letters when at the institute. It was no big deal to me to write several letters a day. In general I wrote to my parents every day after they had moved to Frunze. Though, if to be absolutely honest, I did not write everyday. Sometimes I wrote letters for future use, but every letter had dates, according to which a calendar could be verified.

And it was not my parents' whim; it was my own desire. Clear enough, I failed to make my letters rich in contents when writing them daily, nevertheless they were informative. Well, and how else could they be described, if on the top of a page I wrote: "Hello, my dear..." , and at the bottom on the other side I put a date and: "Hugs and kisses, Me.". At least I believed that. For instance, and that happened more than once, I sent an envelope with a blank piece of paper. My considerations were the following: my parents would receive such kind of letter, and my mother would start grumbling and bewailing right away, and my batya (father) would explain to her: "As soon as the envelope is signed and mailed, then he remembers about us; he is just too busy with his study and has no time to write to you, Shura (my mother's name is Aleksandra Mikhaylovna), any rubbish. You'd better pack a parcel for him with dried apricots and Eastern sweets. And I will post it tomorrow". I remember that after that kind of letters I used to receive a package and an extra money transfer, the wired one. That was my batya assigning to me from his stash "to keep my pants up".

I also wrote letters to my uncles and aunts and, of course, to my friends. Especially I liked to write letters to Pet'ka Kozlov in Tomsk, where he together with Valera Kaygorodov had transferred after the fourth year to study at the Military Medicine Department of Tomsk Medical Institute. I described our group's life to Peter and shared my thoughts about anything with him and sent him clippings of the "Kuzbass" newspaper. Pet'ka answered all my letters; he focused on some of the questions and gave his assessments of some events. So how could I conceal from him the following event of our group's life? It was late fall or early winter of 1970. I do not remember the occasion, because of which our group was having a party at the "Kuzbass" restaurant. Practically all of us were there.

We did not differ from the rest of the folks around us, we were drunk to the same degree and were dashingly dancing to "Freilekhs" and did not sit in the corner to "Sweets and Bread-Rings" as well. And suddenly I noticed through the door that four men entered the restaurant from the hotel, and one of them was Dorde Marjanovic. At that time that Yugoslavian star was extremely popular in the Soviet Union, and especially in Kemerovo, as they said that his wife came from Kemerovo. So I saw them and grew dumb with astonishment. The four set at a table to the right from the stage, in the very corner, and because of the columns it was basically difficult to see them. But I had already announced to the guys that Marjanovic was in the pub! So Zhenka Romashov and I went to their table. What for? Who was waiting for us there? What we were going to talk about with them? We did not bother to answer the questions. On the way to the table Yevgeniy grabbed a box of chocolates from somebody's table telling its owners: "For Marjanovic", and they gave the box of chocolates without a murmur.

Джордже Марьянович

George Marjanovic

And my legs suddenly made a turn to the stage; the good thing was that the musicians knew me and gave me the microphone and I made an announcement in it: "Dear friends, attention, there is Dorde Marjanovic among us! Let's ask him to sing for us!". The audience burst into applause, no, that was even an ovation. Someone started chanting: "Dorde, Dorde". And you know, Marjanovic came up to the microphone, the audience started roaring. Dorde waited for the audience to calm down, thanked everyone for the welcome, but categorically refused to sing, as he was very tired after the flight. He invited everybody to his concert at the Philharmonic Theatre and took his seat at the corner. Yevgeniy with the borrowed box of chocolates hesitated what to do next, "does not respect us...". Though, Zhenya and I approached the table anyway. I took the chocolates from Zhenka and presented them to Marjanovic and asked him for an autograph. Dorde took his pen and asked where to sign. I offered him the box of chocolates, and he laughed: "Is that for us or for you?", but signed on the corner of the box. Then I realized that I was a booby. I apologized, took a ruble from my pocket, a new one, bright yellow, and gave it to him, and he signed it.

I did my best to describe everything that had happened in all colors with the tiniest details to Pet'ka! And what question did Peter ask me? I am sure, you are thinking about the same thing. Pet'ka asked: "And where is the autograph?". That was a question for me too on the next day. After the party Yevgeniy talked me into going to the dorm together with him, it was more fun that way. And we took a taxi for two rubles from "Kuzbass" to the dorm. And how I was looking for the ruble in the morning was more impressive than tsunami in Japan. Yes, Zhenka and I turned everything upside down in the dorm room. Yet, we did not find the cherished ruble. And only then we realized that we had given it to the taxi driver after our ride from the restaurant. Yes, we found the taxi driver. He turned out to be an adequate man. He sympathized with us in our situation, but he did not know or remember what he had done with the ruble: he might've given it to a passenger as change, or had given it to a cashier's office, or to his wife, two days had passed before we found him.

I also used to buy mailing sets in cities I visited. A set included twenty envelopes and of nonstandard size and most various colors and shapes, and twelve pieces of paper. For the envelopes I bought collection stamps, and then my letters looked very spectacular and were different from regular ones. And collection stamps were sold with margins of white paper if bought as a set; the margins had glue on the other side, just like a stamp. The margins were separated from the stamps by fine perforation.

So one day we were at a lecture. I, as usual, was writing letters. That time I was writing to Peter. I remember the envelope was a long one, the way envelopes are now, and because of that it looked even longer. The envelope was of the color of desert sand. When I took stamps to put on the envelope, Vagram Agadzhanyan, who set next to me, had an offer: "Let's draw a stamp; you see how wide the margins are." I agreed without a moment's thought. We started discussing the theme of the stamp, and got so excited that were reprimanded. We chose the theme "An answer to an aggressor".

At the right side Vagram drew Egyptian pyramids and a sphinx. You know, Vagram was a decent artist; he even had excellent works painted in oils. Let me continue about the stamp: at the left side there was a tank and there was something like a shot from its gun. On the top from right to left there was a stretched hand with a huge fig and a caption: "An answer to the aggressor". That was the way Vagram and I expressed our civil protest against the occupational war of Israel against its neighbors: Syria, Egypt and Lebanon in 1967. Yes, of course, Vagram wrote "USSR Post" and the nominal "10 kop.", that was the cost of a registered letter. Let me specify that Vagram had drawn the stamp by a ballpoint pen with five colors, those pens were fashionable then.
And did not hesitate, I put the stamp on the envelope of my letter to Peter Kozlov. After the lecture we went to a post office and gave the letter to be mailed as a registered one. The post office employee stamped the envelope with a long rectangular stamp, wrote its registration number and put a round stamp on the stamp and placed the letter into a pile of others. She wrote a receipt to us and then we heard the regular: "Next".

This is how counterfeiting takes place. Remember in the movie: "Gentlemen of Luck" Kramorov says: "My friend is a scientist too, he has four grades of education, he will draw a ten ruble banknote for thirty minutes, not to tell it from a real one". Vagram and I did not have four classes of education, but a lot more, but he drew a stamp for a lecture time, and it was not distinguished by professionals at the post office.

P.S. Peter Kozlov received the letter. Of course, he noticed the stamp. To be more exact, the whole Military Department knew about the stamp. To that institute mail was delivered by an orderly, and the orderly was very curious and talkative, so he told all the cadets that Kozlov had received "a letter with a fig to answer the aggressor".

They say the stamp on the envelope with a postal stamp is priceless now.

29 August, 2011.

© Copyright: Oleg Syedyshev, 2012
Publishing licence #21204250964

Translated by Viktoria Potykinato content