Une mer très noire / A very black sea

Huge amounts of old photographs have been published on the web, and as it is not possible that these sensitive and individual faces, which so attentively and full of hope try to see through the dusk of the just dawning twentieth century, would have no story, you spontaneously read a story into them, of course along the schematic lines of the great history. And you are very grateful for the rare occasions, when you also receive a story with the pictures, a story which is always more complex and unpredictable. Even if it is only reconstructed by a grandchild from the scraps of memory, like this one which was just sent to Poemas del Río Wang by the French author Eric Tchijakoff together with three photos of his grandfather. The last after-image, where in the Black Sea port the Red Army is massacring the whites and the civilians fleeing with them who failed to reach a ship of the Entente, is the same as the one described by Neil Ascherson in The Black Sea as the last Russian memory of his grandfather as a white officer fleeing from Odessa on a British battleship.

« En 1913, il était présent sur la photo. Accoudé à sa chaise, une large casquette vissée sur sa petite tête, il ignorait qu’il allait bientôt quitter Kiev, son gentil parc et sa balançoire. Le petit Fédor ignorait qu’il lui faudrait bientôt oublier les chevaux de famille, qu’il se ferait cadet de la garde Blanche, qu’il monterait dans un train sans retour. Le gamin de l’époque ne pouvait imaginer dans ses pires cauchemars que ses yeux ne retiendraient qu’une singulière image de fin: celle d’une escouade de Cosaques du Kouban et leurs montures plongeant jusqu’au fond des eaux du port de Novorossiysk.

En 1920, il embarquait en désespoir d’une cause désespérée. Il allait jeter sa casquette par-dessus bord, traverser une mer très Noire pour rejoindre une terre pleine d’exil, pour ne laisser après lui que des bribes de bribes de mémoire. »
“In 1913, he was still present in the family photo. Leaning back in his chair, with a large cap on his little head, the small Fedor did not yet know that he would soon leave Kiev, the nice park and the rocking chair, that he would have to forget the horses of the family, that he would become a cadet of the White Guard, that he would ride a train without return. At that time the kid would have not imagined in his worst nightmares that the last image his eyes would retain from his homeland would be that of the squad of Kuban Cossacks and their horses plunging into the depths of the water at the port of Novorossiysk.

In 1920 he embarked hopeless, leaving a hopeless cause. He would throw his hat overboard, cross a very black sea, to a land full of exile, leaving behind him only scraps of scraps of memory.”

Tableau of the Russian high school in Constantinople, 1926