Слободкина Ольга
"The Children Of Captain Grant" Youth Adventure Club

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  • © Copyright Слободкина Ольга (olga_slobodkina@mail.ru)
  • Обновлено: 18/01/2019. 23k. Статистика.
  • Очерк: Мемуары

  •   The Energy of Happiness or a Birthday that lasts a hundred years.
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things"(Mathew 12:33-37)
      
      
       "The best way to make the children good is to make the happy"
       Oscar Wild
      
      
      "We are the best children in the only country of the world"
       Irina Efimova
      
       Why does one write so easily when one sleeps? The soul spreads its wings and flies, flies to Where one feels happy, so happy one cannot be on the Earth. But on the Earth it can also be good, so good that one remembers it for 20, 30, 40 years ... up until the end. And this happiness is not being in love, but is nevertheless from God. For all the good things come from God.
       There was a man on the Earth. His name was Grant. His very name is a gift - a grant. Grant Alexandrovich Genzhentsev. He was born before the 1917 Revolution, in 1912 or 1913.
       Since he altered his certificate of birth (as many peope did at that time for various reasons) I did not quite get the actual year of his birth. But it does not matter. What is important - during his lifetime, 70 years on the Earth, he made many, very many children happy - about 4 000, 100 each year during his nearly 40 years of work. How many people living and gone would be able to boast such life achievements? The history of mankind knows tyrants who ruined millions of their contemporaries... Each of us has some who have spoilt something, broke something, blocked something. But someone who could make one really happy...
      Grant Alexandrovich created in centeral Moscow, Russia, a youth aventure club for teen-agers, at the Palace of Pioneers named after Krupskaya (Lenin's wife, she was supposed to be a friend of children). The club was called THE CHILDREN OF CAPTAIN GRANT. I was lucky to be one of them. And two years spent in the adventure camp and hikes - big and small - are still in my heart as the happiest time of my youth. We had not only The Palace, but the whole world of wild nature and hiking trailways - Grant gave all that to us.
       Fourty years have passed and now the meaning of this great man becomes even clearer and brighter.
      And throughout those years the guys have been having reunions. Everyone could come to the Palace (now the Palace of Youth's Creativity) for our traditional watermelons eating or for the Dad's birthday (Jan. 20). Twice a year. Whether it's often ebough or not - this is up to you to decide. But when we began getting ready for the Dad's centinuary I realized - other groups were still feeling the same, among them those who came to the club back in 1958, those who are almost 70 now.
       I did not feel like writing an essay or something - either a novel or nothing at all - let it stay only in the heart... and came out with one more project myself - a book of memoirs and photos (apart from trimming Grant's grave, creating a memorial board and pins for the celebration).
       Here is an extract from my poem "Egyptian days" - my Egyptian diary of 2008 where I recollect Grant and those times.
      
      
       I remember
       Grant the Great,
       the head of our
       Youth Adventure Club
       аnd how my mom
       did not
       let me go to Dagestan,
       saying:
       "All's in store for you, bun."
      
       I've never had an opportunity
       since then,
       have never been to Dagestan,
       though I'm its fan.
      
       This is all wrong.
      
       But even if
       I'd had a chance to go,
       it would have been
       another trip, you know...
      
       Wow!
      Things can happen
       only now.
      
       But then
       I was just thirteen... in vein
       did I try to close
       the links of that great chain.
      
      
       Oh!
       Didn't I want to go!
      
       Grant came to our school
       to take me to his Wonder Camp
       when my dad, granny
       and my granddad
       had all died -
      
       back then
       every second month
       someone in the family died
       while the rest
      thought
       they would be the next...
       I was horrified and vexed,
       I didn't want to die -
       I was only ten.
      
      
       Grant took me
       from the world of Death's desire
       to the world of living things -
       lakes, mountains,
       hiking,
       friendship,
       songs by the bon-fire.
      
      
       Grant Alxandrovich!
       You were my second dad -
       that was my lot,
       although you could have never thought.
      
      
       And burried
       very near
      to my dear...
      
      
       Why?
       Fate again
       And Fate is not a lie.
      
      
      
       When I go to clear their graves
       I always put up a candle for your soul.
       Can it be otherwise!
       Peace be upon you.
       I wish you were in Paradise.
      
      
       At the beginning
       of my first Adventure Summer Camp,
       which was so cool,
      I saw - my mom had no idea
      what to do with me,
      But Grant came to our school -
      so let it be.
      
      
      
      And why are you recollecting
       that time,
      peregrine?
       For now
       I feel the same,
       almost the same -
       happy and serene.
      
      
       What with the next summer - yes.
       Grant took me to the
       Cauca-
       ses.
       While he didn't take
       us all, a smaller part... But why?
       The trip wasn't easy,
       so the chance to go wasn't high.
      
      
       But I did go.
       My mother let me go
       influenced by my step-dad and all.
      
      
       What I remember best -
       The Tur's Lake, its nest.
       From hight above it looked,
      resting beneath,
      like a green fragment
       of a bottle in a wreath.
      
      
      When I was small and shy
      we, girls,
       played with such fragments
      calling them "secret souls"...
      
      
      
       So when Grant and we
       went down to the beach
       we saw young couples
       strolling each with each.
       It was breath-taking...
       and I gasped...
       Grant looked at me...
      Who could have ever guessed!
      
       He asked me:"Would you like to stroll
       like that with a young man"?
       I didn't answer, though
       it wasn't a ban.
      
      
      
       Ten years passed.
       That very beach again.
       A young, tall, handsome man
       strolled by my side, with me
       along the all remembering sea.
      
       Later we parted -
       Tears, oh, tears.
       I did not know
       he'd lived in pain for years.
      
      
       I'm going down
       to such depths of life.
       For that young man
       the break
       was like a knife.
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      Of course, each club member has their own ocean of reminiscence. Theoretical classes at the Palace (the ABC of hiking), Winter and Summer Adventure Camps, the actual trekking, mountain hiking, skiing, boating... To Lake Seliger, Istra, Uzbekistan, Kolsky Peninsula, Elbrus, the Caucases, Armenia, Dagestan, Karelia. Even abroad - to Poland and Czechoslovakia, which was quite extraorginary for the Iron Curtain country. When I was a student at the Insitiute of Foregin Languages (1976-1981) I was not even allowed to go to Bulgaria at a private invitation (a post graduate of my father wanted to thank his Scientific Advisor - post mortem, by giving a holiday to his daughter).
      While we were in the club many fell in love for the first time, after - some got married, many are still friends, regardless of the differnt countires they now live in - Russia, the USA, Australia, Israel... But I would not like to go into details, I just want to say why we were all so happy in such simple condtitions.
       Grant had a gift - from Above, as I can see now. His mere presence in the Camp was enough to have a perfect order, strict discipline and at the same time we all felt very free, happy and occupied, not idle. When he left for a short while our instructors could not manage us, but as soon as he returned the divine harmony got back. He emanated light and that light penetrated everyone.
       He did everything with Olympian calm as if things could never be different and love and happiness were the only norm of life. True - that's how it should be, but unfortunately, life is full of deviations from this keystone. However, in Grans's Adventure Camp and during the hikes that became reality. Grant was opening for us a huge world of a huge country, the joy of travelling and being friends together.
      Freedom, zest for movement and impressions, love for all and everything - that was the spirit in our Adventure Club. Grant managed to put through the great principle - one for all and all for one - in our small Camp. There is such a notion called synergy. It is a community enhancing the effect of each component. That's exactly how we lived in the Camp and during the hikes - everyone got strengthened from the commonwealth. It was totally impossible to leave anyone behind, without a meal, not to assist. "Old things" were teaching beginners. But it was not at all a bullying, but the priceless gold of sharing skills and knowledge with the younger ones, without which life itself is unthinkable. Grant tought us cooperation and esprit de corps in extreme conditions. We used to despise bus tourism: it was a disgrace if a group felt seedy and used a bus for part of the route. In that case we tried to carefully hide the fact, but for some reason our shame would soon leak out - it was quite some job to hide anything from Grant. I have a hunch he could see through everyone, had a good idea who was in love and with whom...
      
      
      Scent of river water
       and you,
       Love.
      
      
       Istra.
       We're both fourteen -
       it'll always be there
       regardless of the years
       to pass.
      
       The pine trees
       ranged
       in a thick row
       to admire us.
      
      
       Later
      it was repeated,
       but not with you.
       Pine trees.
       Razliv.
       Leningrad.
       The white nights...
       Almost the same view.
      
      
       What was it?
       Love again?
      
      
       Back then
       I was twenty one...
       You weren't alone either, my bun.
      
       Since then
      much water has flown
      under the bridges...
       Now I'm alone.
      
      
      
       My fourty seventh spring
       went by
       in the catacombs
       of my inju-
      ry...
      
       An injury is terrible, you know.
       When you get broken abruptly
      and blown.
      
      
      
       Don't blame me...
      
      
       After all, do you think you're ready
       for a spiritual uni-
       ty?
       When will you be?
      
      
      
      
       But that is all right.
      
      
      The scent of river water
       and the Sun
       ready to go down,
       behind the pine-trees,
       drop through the clouds.
      
      
      
       In store for me
      is
       a thousand years of singing psalms
       and
       creati-
      vity.
      
      
       For you -
       money-making,
      concerns
      and the kids.
      
      
       Under this Sun
       we cannot be one.
      
      
       But that is all right.
      
      
       The Better World
       has all the tricks
       of a business mind for you -
      a blast of a fire.
      
      
       For me -
      a play of color and sound.
       And the ago-
       ny
       of all
      who were in love with me
       left with an unquenched desire.
      
      
       This is our lot.
       Such a thought.
      
      
       Anyway
       Life is unending.
       Your cactus - in flower.
       Dying - impossible.
      
      
       June 24, 2005
      
      
      Am looking at the photos of those years - we were all such perfect and absolute kids, but the passions were high! Grant could see that, of course, and once when we had formed up he blared: "Stop your funny business!"
      He could see through me very well. Apart from his beach prophesy, Grant saw my ambivalence (my passionate nature and a strive for chastity) and would often call me The Chaiman of the Bachеlors' Club - he was right.. He did not know anything about my family or about my bitter losses... Naturally, I did not advertize my personal tragedies. On top of all that, after the four deaths in my family my granny's sister died the same year, in 1970, and the next year - her brother and his wife. However, it took me many years to realize that their departure had followed our half a year requiem - no sooner than I came to their grave in 1997. While back in 1970 I was so shocked by the deaths of my dear and near that I could hardly perceive the losses in the cousin family.
      Grant Alexandrovich had also suffered irreparable losses at that time. His son Slava Genzhentsev died in the mountains at the age of 22... Everyone quoted the inscribtion on his grave: "Trekker, be careful in the mountains. Your life is like a tear on the eylash." These words are branded on my memory for ever. However, I could not expect that grave to be so closed to my people's. And of course, could have never thought I would be trimming it. Life is unpredictable!
      Those who had come to the Club earlier than me would recollect: "Grant before Slava's death and after - two different persons. When Slava was gone Grant became very self-contained. He stopped laughing, joking."
       The guys even tried to avoid the very word "mountains" when he was around, would only sing songs about the mountains when he left the Adventure Camp on business for a while or in such a way that he could not hear them.
       Recently I pondered - why did Slava die? Nothing bad had ever happened in our Club. One of the Club veterans, Vitya Gurevich, told me:"Slava died not in our Summer Camp. He joined a Mountaineering Camp. At night he went to another Camp in the mountains where his sister Mila was at that time." We do not know what that night saw - whether he fell off a cliff by accident or if someone else helped him to do that... It's not clear either why he started out on such a dangerous path at night... In the afternoon he was found... dead... "My mom saw Slava and that shattered her for the rest of her life", said Irina Genzhentseva, Grant's granddaughter. "She could not go up to the mountains again, stopped attending the Geological University..."
      The Head master of Vitya's school rushed into his classroom and exclaimed: "Gurevich, run to the Palace! There's been an accident!"
      Yes, all the schools knew Grant and all the school headmasters knew Grant's club members.
       "Life in the mountains is like a tear on the eyelash..." I could feel that very well when I got to The Stei Mountaineering Camp myself in 1978.
      But let us come back to the good, which followed the landslides on the path. I've never experienced anything like in "The Children of Captain Grant" Youth Adventure Club - neither before (in the pioneer camps, even in "Laspi" on the Black Sea - "Laspi" was The National Camp Number One after "Artek", let alone kindergartens' summer camps, where I suffered terribly and was always sick), nor later, in the Tsei mountain camp, whith its setups, envy, theft, deliberate neglect, etc and where our group of 4 people was so close to death in Svaneti during a thunderstorm and rockfall, after which the entire area was closed to mountain tourism and mountaineering, and we returned to the Tsei gorge.
      The storm found us in the mountains, but, thanks God, not on the pass to Svaneti, not on the ice crest, where we planned to be that morning, but on our way up, 50 meters from the mountain-climber's hut. We were moving on an azimuth to the hut and at some point simply decided to stop and set up a tent - because of the snow and the snowstorm we could not see anything at arm's length. In order not to attract lightning, we threw down all the metal objects - crampons, hatchets, pots - and spent the night in a tent.
      The snowstorm raged all night, it rumbled, stones fell down from above ... When the next morning it calmed down, the hut appeared before us - it was only 50 metres away. In the daytime, we started to see dead climbers being brought down past us. As I have mentioned, that day, when the blizzard began, we were planning to take the "ice crest" at five in the morning wearing crampons, but the day before, having gone down from the col, I made dinner and ... fell asleep. The guys decided not to wake me up (I could hear their voices through my sleep, but I couldn't wake up, couldn't open my eyes - it was some miracle!). So we stayed overnight in the valley. My miraculous sleep saved our group of four...
       But with Grant things turned out to be just perfect - I don't remember anyone getting really sick or seriously injured (famous blisters that we rubbed sore in our tourist boots don't count; Grant taught us how to deal with them), poisoned and stuff like that. In ordinary life, I catch a cold from drafts, can go down to bed from harsh words, from a stress, my stomach gets upset with any unsuitable food, but in Grant's Country I lived like in God's pocket, and a summer spent in his camp and hiking was enough to stay well thoughout the whole school year.
      Oh, how we admired the sunsets on Lake Seliger or the Istra river! The smell of fresh water, river algae, water lilies ... We cooked the food on a fire, in the open air - what a delight! After dinner, we gathered around a big campfire and sang tourist and military songs - Grant accompanied on his accordion while some guys used the guitar.
       What is more, Grant's accordion was a trophy. Yes, he was at the front during WWII ... On the Karelian front. Was wounded. The wound was telling on him until his end. He walked with a slight limp. But again, I realized all this much later, but back then ... Oh, the carelessness of youth!
      
      
      The cities and countries flash by like glimpses -
       Latitudes and longitudes,
       But there are no such pecked lines,
       Which would be ours to treck the world along.
      
      
      At night, in the tent, we could smell the grass, the wildflowers and saw the moonlight through the tarpaulin. And in the morning we woke up at dawn and hurried to the water right away - to meet the first rays of the Sun, to feel the dew, before the sunrise, before the wakeup and the lining up.
      
      Grant Alexandrovich taught us to love nature, to live with it in harmony. After our camping there was never a trace. All the paper trash was burned in the fire and the fire was doused.
      Winter hikes were also beautiful - not only cross country and mountain skiing ones, but even one-day Sunday outings. White pure snow and again - a bonfire, a bonfire on the snow, strong tea in a sooty pot.
      
      
      
      
      to be continued
      
      
      

  • © Copyright Слободкина Ольга (olga_slobodkina@mail.ru)
  • Обновлено: 18/01/2019. 23k. Статистика.
  • Очерк: Мемуары

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