I watched the final episode of the miniseries “Chernobyl” shaking and crying – because, because, because… so much unspeakable happened, so much was hidden to save FACE no matter what the human cost, so much, so much there to take in, to handle. to bear.
I know that mindset, the mindset that nothing bad can possibly happen under a certain regime, so nothing bad ever happens, by fiat, even if they have to bury it, and anyone who knows the truth about it, six feet under to keep the secret. Because it couldn’t have happened. It simply couldn’t have happened because the perfect doctrine said that we are always faultless and blameless and therefore how could this bad thing EVER conceivably have occurred on our watch?
We will silence and annihilate one way or another anybody who dares to say different. They lie, the people who say bad things about us, because they hate us, not because any of it is true – because it can’t be true. We are good. We are the best there could be. We are the answer to everything. We will NOT discuss the questions, not if they might lead to alternative answers. We will not speak of the consequences.
I watched the series with shivers and tears. I am broken by this. So when I saw what the title was of the final episode, “Vyechnaha Pamyat” I should have known… I should have known it would smash me.
Vyechnaha Pamyat – “memory eternal” – is the Orthodox Requiem, it’s an invocation to all my beloved ghosts, and I sat there on the floor of my living room sobbing for half an hour just now, listening to the sung liturgy that buried so many of my own beloved dead. For a moment they were there around me, all my ghosts, standing there, their hands folded, their eyes down – they can no longer meet my eyes, because I might read in theirs the secrets of what lies beyond and that much is forbidden. But they live – they all live – in my memory, Vyechnaya Pamyat, and I wept.
I was completely wrecked for anything else the night it ran. I had stood in the company of the dead, in the shadow of love lost, and I couldn’t stop crying.
For the Chernobyl waste and death and lies, yes. For all that happened there. For all the prices that were paid by everyone who had a shred of decency and honor as a human being and not as an apparatchik trying to curry favor or cover tracks.
But for all of my dead, too. For the people who have been gone so long, long enough that their faces are shadows now, and their voices echoes only, surviving as recordings, a phrase, a word, the way someone laughed.
Oh, my ghosts. I remember you all tonight.
I knew what would happen the moment I saw that episode title, and even though I was braced for it, the thing still hit with the force an oncoming train.
You’ll have to forgive me while I make peace with all the people I have loved and lost. Maybe I’ll stop crying. Soon.
Not that there’s any reason for it to affect anyone who isn’t Orthodox or who doesn’t carry the meaning of the thing inside themselves like I do – but just in case you have ever loved someone, and lost them. The link below is is how we remember our dead. If the memory be bright, I hope it brings back a lost smile or an almost forgotten touch of a loved hand.
Forgive me. Live in memory. Never leave me, beloved ghosts. Never leave me alone.
Watch and listen to the video HERE
(Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash)