Peasant Autonomy
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Story 101

A village in Belarus – 1943


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(Photo: Marc Veraart)


“I should never have done it,” Flyora thinks, “why didn't I listen to that old farmer? My friend and I made fun of him behind his back. But now it turns out he was right. How could I have been so stupid? In broad daylight.”
Flyora, a blond boy of about twelve, wearing an old army coat, is sitting on the ground, his head bowed low, with both hands in his hair. He has deep lines in his forehead, like an old man.

A few weeks ago Flyora and a friend were digging in a sandy area, looking for a gun. An old farmer caught them doing it, and yelled at them. When the Germans found out what they did, it could have terrible consequences. But when the farmer was gone, they went ahead digging, until they had come across two guns. They wanted to join the partisans in the forests, but you cannot arrive there without a gun, because then they will never accept you.

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(Photo: Melirius)


When Flyora told his mother that he would join the partisans, she began crying desperately. “What should I tell Father, when he comes home and doesn't see you? If you can't have any pity for me, then have pity for your little sisters.” When that didn't work, she brought the axe from the barn, and pushed it in the hands of Flyora. “First, you kill us”. But Flyora didn’t change his mind; he winked at his sisters, and slipped away by the back door, with his gun under his coat.
Flyora and his friend were in fact accepted into the partisan camp. Once, when Flyora had to go to the village to deliver a message, he met the same old farmer. He told him that both his parents together with his two little sisters were killed by the Germans. They had gotten a tip.

Flyora’s legs gave way, and he sank to the ground. He is desolate, but he cannot cry. All he knows is that he will go back to the partisans, to fight the Germans. What else can he do?


The movie Come and See (1985) made by the Soviet director Elem Klimov shows the story of one of the more than 600 peasant villages in Belarus, massacred by the Germans.

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