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Book: Triology

Petersburg Stories 


When it was snowing

Christmas Fairy-tale

It is winter now in Russia. It's snowing. In St:Petersburg, the snowflakes land upon the cathedrals' cupolas, upon palaces' roofs, on the fanciful railings of bridges. It then makes the city a real stage for a fairy tale...

It is even more so on Christmas Eve, when in the streets and in the windows the multicoloured lights adorning the Christmas trees begin twinkling, and the snow falls and falls endlessly, creating high drifts, richly coating trees and bushes. Upon nights like this fairy tales roam the city streets...

...Stars drop and drop from the sky,

To pour down into snow from the dark spruce branches.

Across the vast Russian land

Orphaned children trail to the howling song of snowstorms.

They just do not see the gala lights,

They do not laugh nor play,

The adult world has cast them aside.

Are they on the verge or already beyond it?...

...Only stars might suddenly ring out bells

And light up their darkened way.

Our Lord the Saviour Himself spreads His wings

Flying fast to the children's rescue.

All their troubles will disperse like smoke!

A miraculous ray of light will cut the vast darkness

Beckoning the children, abandoned by their own country,

To the hospitable Heavenly palace

Picture from the book

It was dark and damp in the cellar, but Mike was long accustomed to it. Here, it was his dwelling. So it happened because he had no other place to live, no room in a cosy home, no kin -- nobody at all. What little he managed to get to eat, he got at nearby canteens and cafes. There is always something left over in somebody's plate or cup...

There in Mike's basement, behind an inconspicuous door, had once been the janitor's room. Today the boy was sitting alone and very sad. He had heard that soon it was Christmas, and feeling extremely lonely, he was thinking bitter thoughts about his orphan's life...

When all of a sudden he heard strange footfalls. Somebody stomped and shifted about, and the next moment the boy had to squint against a dazzling light! And when finally he dared to reopen his eyes and even put them to a little crevice in the wall, he perceived a red-haired woman in a fir coat and by her side, an old man in a long coat and a hat. In his hand the old man was holding a little golden key of unique beauty: it shone with a light of its own, casting a shimmering radiance upon everything around it. What miracles!

"Now, my little Karla," the old man said, "nobody will even think of searching here. And who might know that something is amiss! But nevertheless, let us hurry. Now it's Christmas Eve, so we should not be seen among mortals. Let us hide the key under those torn rags..." And lifting the heap of rags squeamishly with his finger tips, the old man concealed under it the key, stowed away in a little bag of rough cloth. The fairy light was extinct, and now only a sickly green flame from the old man's ring illuminated the vault. The red-haired woman giggled and clattered about, rubbing her hands and looking contented.

"So we've done it, my lord the Black Knight!" she said. "No kid will ever divine now where the key to the Kids' Happiness Home is kept!"

"Hush, Karla, before somebody might overhear! Should you so risk our idea of making that Home miss its Christmas Guest?"

"But my lord, modern kids no more believe in magic things. They merit themselves too smart..."

"This night --" and the old man lifted a hand, as if to utter a terrible wow, "The Home will remain locked and undiscovered! Because only a child, who himself has experienced grief and injustice, but has retained his soul unsoiled and his thoughts clean from evil, will be capable to give the Eternal Father a spark of his Faith, Hope and Love, opening the sacred door with this magic key!"

"I can well remember, your lordship," Karla replied. "So has it been written in the Book of Fate: but this can happen only during the Christmas Night." The red-hair drew herself up to her full height and suddenly she croaked, glancing around with fiery eyes, "Yes! Nevermore will the kids find their way to that Home!"

"Though they even need not to seek out the road," slowly and clearly the old man said. "One should just march on and on right forward, when a heavy snow will be falling... But it is really high time for us to be gone. Let's hasten!"

He turned the ring on his finger and suddenly began rapidly spinning himself, together with the red-haired Karla. Mike was scared to the bones' marrow. He drew his head into his shoulders, shut his eyes tight and held his breath... And when he again dared do look through the crevice, what did he see instead of just an old man and a red-haired woman? A giant with dead merciless eyes, black-helmeted and black-cloaked, astride an iron charger. And by his side, a flame-haired giantess on a horse like his own...

Once again the terrible Knight turned his ring, and both disappeared as never had been. Just an ordinary damp and chill vault was before Mike's eyes. But somewhere above, at a great distance, departing hooves thundered...

Now it was that Mike had the real creeps. However, soon he managed to regain his wits and clambered out of his hiding place. Immediately he poked a hand under the heap of rags... And here it was, the small bag! He felt it for the key, and the key was right there. Mike hastened into the street... Dusk was gathering already. Passers-by were hurrying home, to where the windows boasted gay coloured lights. And snow still kept falling heavy, beating into Mike's face, easily getting inside the worn collar of his old coat...

Heeding nothing, the boy goes as he was told: "On and on right forward." The shrill wind catches snowflakes and sends them dancing around street lanterns, talls houses... around the entire city. But now Mike fears nothing, as he has the magic key in his pocket! He just has to go on and on, eventually to stumble into the sacred door...

...Little by little, the multi-storey buildings began falling back. Here the tram rails ended, and beyond, the black forest loomed. If one intended to go right forward, it had to be straight into the woods...

Mike entered the forest. His hands were numb with cold, and so were his feet, as he had nothing better than rubber boots upon them. Great snowdrifts seemed ready to swallow his tiny figure, nothing but a mote in a vast world where nobody bothered to care for him. The boy had long ago lost count of stumbles on his way. He fell into the snow, but rose and marched again. On and on, right forward. Where this Home might be?.. He only could hear unfamiliar birds calling from great trees. Here and there, branches creaked and snow avalanched from the boughs... Finally, complete darkness cloaked the forest, and with it, Mike. Desperately, he took out the key and lifted it high over his head... It shone bright and true, precious gems emitting a wonderful glow. Fearful darkness fled and dissolved. The unspeakable beauty of the benighted winter forest was suddenly revealed. Tall spruce stood in fluffy blue coats, birches put on fine fir caps. The snow shimmered, reflecting the moon and heavenly constellations! But the main thing, Mike saw he appeared to be standing in front of a most wondrous palace. Without hesitation, he ran up the porch stairs and pushed the door... It was closed. But over it, silver chimes began playing and chirruping:

"You have come! So fear no more,

Just unlock the sacred door!”

And so Mike put the key into the keyhole of the lock, never heeding the snowstorm behind his back suddenly scream out with Karla's and the Black Knight's voices: "He has stolen it! We'll never have him dare..." He turned the key. Beautiful music started to play, and the door opened. On the threshold, a tall sandy-bearded man stood, smiling down upon the boy. His sad eyes beamed with kindness and sympathy. 

"Now you have arrived, my son."

"But who be you?"

"I am the Eternal Father of all the children."

"But over there, many of them are having real bad luck, never knowing how to find Them!"

"Now their plight has come to an end. With you at my side, I'll force my way through space as well as time to help them. Let us fly together to the rescue of your unhappy little brothers and sisters!"

Mike shot a brief glance into the Home. Therein he glimpsed a great hall with a number of Christmas trees in full array. Around them, children were singing and dancing. A lot of sweets and choice refreshments... Fragrant flowers, with honey bees and bumble-bees buzzing over them...

"Think again," the Eternal Father told him. "You can choose to stay there right now. You'd like it. Here you'll find kin and friends and everything you ever dreamed of. And without, just look -- there is the madness of the winter storm and all the dark forces planning how to cripple my work. It is so hard to help the unhappy. It might take a lot of time, perhaps the entire span of your life!"

"No," said Mike firmly. "You need my help. So let's fly."

And the boy stepped outside, into the stormy night. Immediately the howling wind strove to blow him off his feet. But the Eternal Father laid His hand across Mike's shoulders, and suddenly there were great light wings behind his back! He felt as happy as never before. "Hurrah!" he yelled... and up he soared...

...It was very late in the night now, but the city appeared still far from asleep. Everywhere, people celebrated the sacred Christ's Birthday. The snowstorm itself went down, subdued. The snow glittered blue in the street lights. Clear and starry became the night. And very low over the city, two figures were flying. The Eternal Father and a boy. One was seeking his children, and the other, his brothers and sisters, who did not yet know that very soon they'll find themselves dancing around the best Christmas tree of a palace, of a true Home, ready to protect them forever from all the evils and injustice of this world. 

Praises for the book, Petersburg Stories:

This book consists of beautiful, deeply lyrical fantastic stories. The action takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Peter Pan and Mio, Pippy and Harry Potter -the heroes of the famous children's books - have got new friends in Russia. And though they have much in common with their British, Swedish and American contemporaries, same ages, (unsettled life, public disregard, but also the kind souls, and hearts - in quest of understanding and love) - the Russian heroes have their own fate, their own understanding of happiness.

They are not magicians. They are just ordinary children living in the splendid Russian city - St:Petersburg.

Maybe some day, having met the heroes of the American, English and Swedish books, these St:Petersburg kids together with them will help the children of our planet - those who might lack happiness, or, even worse, are downright unhappy in life.

This is wonderful work of St. Petersburg's writer is considered to be among the best books for children.

This book, where is the dynamical plot, full of unexpected changes and adventures, combination of a light prose with nice poems should be by a real revelation not only for children but even for adults.

Translation by Russian writer Marii Semyonovoy


Dina Televitskaya, a member of the Journalists' and Literarians' Unions of Russia, SCBWI - US.

This issue is dedicated to: CHILDREN OF THE WORLD & WHEN PEACE COMES
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THE BRIGHTEST AND HAPPINESS YEAR OF MY LIFE IN ALL MEANINGS... Everything has been emerging since the beginning of this year... B.Ü. June 26, 2004