Communist Bandit

18 May 1944, 12am, Bahçesaray, Crimea

For Bekir Osmanov

His picture had sprouted all over the town,
on the walls of the city hall,
at the entrance of the mosque,
even in the small coffee houses,
as if to celebrate the early summer
in all languages:  in Russian, Tatar
and of course, German:
His eyes wide open – astonished
at the listed reward.

His rescue of the three partisans
from a Gestapo prison in the North
in the middle of a snow storm,
had brought him the highest of his honors:
Partisan of the Patriotic War – First Class
and a bullet – a mother’s prayer away from his spine.

Only a year later,
when crammed into the cattle car
by the NKVD agents, next to me,
he immediately kissed my hand:
Don’t worry, dede, he said.
They’ll understand soon,
this is a terrible mistake.

As soon as they closed the door though,
he started to cry:
Nazi collaborator,
enemy of the proletariat, he sobbed.
How can I take that?
His medals were stripped away,
but the bullet next to his spine
stayed forever there.

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