Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Novosibirsk Crematorium

I grew up in Novosibirsk, Russia, which is in south part of Siberia. My grandfather was Comrade Ivan Kuplan, who was chairman of the Committee for Building the First State Crematorium and Morgue. That was way back in 1920, and the first one built in St. Petersburg was use of wood, not gas like today.

Sons in Russia do what their fathers do, so my papa was also crematorium operator like his papa. Grandfather Ivan was part of the Revolution and was friend of Stalin, who wanted crematorium in Siberia. My grandfather built the crematorium for my papa, Ivanovich, to run like his own business, and Stalin didn't care because they were friends. My momma and papa were in St. Petersburg at the time, but had to move to Novosibirsk to run the crematorium. This is where me and younger brother Aleksander were born.

We pretty much grew up in the crematorium at my papa's side, and played our hiding games and other things that kids do at that place. It was what we knew. Novosibirsk Crematorium was newer, modern one with gas instead of wood. This was much easier for my papa, as he only had to turn some valves and light the flame with ignitor button. It was a big steel and iron oven. Everything in Russia was made out of steel and iron. Again, this was what we know.

As me and Aleksander got older we learned how to operate the oven. It was easy for anyone to operate. We could slide out the body pan, turn the valves, empty the ash bin, even ignite the flame if papa was watching over us. When we were smaller, papa would have us crawl inside oven to clean it out with brushes and rags, kind of how you might clean a chimney smoke and soot.

One day me and Aleksander were playing our hiding game, and I was looking for him. I couldn't find him for long time, and I was look everywhere for him. Finally, I try to scare him by telling him I was going to turn the fire on in the oven and cook him alive. Still, I hear nothing from him.

I went to the oven and was making really loud sounds and telling him that I was going to start the fire. I was just trying to scare him to make him come out of hiding place. I don't know why I didn't look in oven first, maybe because I didn't think he was in there because he don't answer me when I try scare him, but I didn't look inside. I just turn on gas.

You can hear the gas hissing like snake, so I figure Aleksander would come out when he hear and smell the gas. Still, he don't come out, so I think he maybe fell asleep somewhere in the building, or is just being stubborn, or maybe even went home and forgot we were playing hiding game. He was little kid and had short attention sometimes.

After the gas was running for a while I pressed the ignitor button that spark the gas and make it flame up. It makes a very loud roar and instantly the oven gets very hot, which is why they changed from wood to gas. When I spark that gas I hear Aleksander screaming, screaming so loud and painful. I know I make really bad mistake and am killing my little brother.

I am panick attack and cannot even move a muscle. Still I hear Aleksander screaming and yelling over the roaring fire, and then I hear nothing. My tears are running down my face but my hand is like welded to iron valve and I can't get myself to break free. I start to scream as loud as I can, and that's when my mama and papa come running into the crematorium. They told me and Aleksander too many times to no playing in the oven. They could see that the worst thing possible had happened to their son Aleksander.

My papa knock me out of the way and kind of bring me to my senses. He hurries to turn off gas so he can open the oven. When the gas was on the door could not be open. When he finally got the door open it was very hot and some of the metal was still glowing red hot. There was small pile of ashes that had fell through the screen to the bottom of the oven. My mother was crying very hard and collapse to the floor. My papa looked at me like he would kill me in that instant, and I was just crying and no words would come out of my mouth. I was only 10 and Aleksander was only 7.

Just then, when everything was really falling apart for the whole Kuplan family, Aleksander came out from behind the oven and he was laughing like a damn fool. Laughing so hard he almost got killed by my hands, and then by papa's hands. This was not a funny joke, but when you are only 7 years old some things are funny when they should not be.

My mother picked him up and hugged him until he almost passed out from no breath. I just fell to the floor because I was so happy I didn't cook my brother to ashes. This was very scary day for me, and for long time could not go back there.

When I die please only bury me. I cannot stand the thought of being cremated to ashes.

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou God. My heart was in my mouth reading this-- such intense sorrow. And a sigh of relief.