I think I am untangling one death in more detail because there are other deaths to grapple with also. The meaning of Nata’s death for me is just one strand of the web of deaths I had to contend with as a child. It was the most horrifying, probably the most complex, and it was the death with the greatest permanent effect on me.

But I think it is resurfacing just now because I am trying to grapple with Miwoshchka’s death. I don’t know if I saw her die or not. However, having seen other deaths, I probably imagined this is what happened to her. When Nata died, the lights went out for me. All the joy leached out of everything. I think the same thing happened when Miwoshchka died. Everything good seemed to disappear, although it didn’t have quit the same complexity of having been saved. But it’s possible that I thought it did. Magda and Stecia both hid me when they died, and then I lived, but I was saddled with the horror of their death and the pain of losing them—they couldn’t save me from everything. They couldn’t save me from the emotional turmoil of it, only the physical.

And when Miwoshchka died, the reprieve she gave me from fear and loneliness and pain disappeared with her. I don’t know when this happened. I was under five. I might have been only three. The memories I have of her and of the loss of are very young memories, and I think this makes them harder to understand. They are in more ways muddy and unclear than my later memories of other people. I think because of the youngness of it, I am getting mostly washes of intense emotions and these simple, single-minded thoughts.

One thought is wanting to go with her, not understanding death in any complex way, but having some sense that it involved going somewhere and wanting to go there too, like you might go to Chicago or the store. Only the way to get there was not on a train, but through violence. I think it’s also possible that leaving Lala and Loosey might have happened around the same time—that I was living with them for a few months and came back to Miwoshchka, and then she died and the losses were piled one on top of the other. I am speculating here: I don’t think I was old enough to have anything coalesce into a clear memory that would tell me. But I have the idea that my memory of trying to hang myself in the closet follows not only the loss of Lala and Loosey, but the loss of Miwoshchka as well.

On the one hand, it seems that it must have felt impossible to continue to live after that. The sheer effort of still eating, still walking around, still trying to take an interest seemed too great. On the other, I think it seemed impossible to believe that there ever had been anything good. No one seemed to mention Miwoshchka anymore. It was like she had never existed at all, and so I think for a long time, it seemed that no good had ever existed and thus no good could ever come. Good had been nothing more than a kind of illusion on my part, a dream that had broken, and so then it seemed impossible there could ever be anything good again.

There is a part that says C looks like Miwoshchka. He says he saw her on the first day of school standing in line a year and a half ago and knew that she had come back for him. I don’t know if that’s true or not. The same part says he can’t tell what is real and what isn’t, and thinks he killed Stecia because he had magic, electrifying hands. And I also don’t remember what Miwoshchka looked like, or how old she was. He says Miwoshchka was 21, but I think he might be making this up. That he didn’t know, and he just felt she must be very grown up. Twenty-one seems very grown up. But when you are three, fifteen seems grown-up too. Even thirteen might seem grown-up. But I can’t remember Miwoshchka’s face at all. I don’t even clearly remember her body, despite that sense of being held. But maybe this is what keeps getting triggered. C organizes like Grusha and looks like Miwoshchka, but she is also her own unique person that I have begun getting to know.

Of all of the people who got me through my childhood, I think it was Nata and Miwoshchka who loved me and helped me the most. It makes sense then that when I lost them, the lights went off for me, and my world became shrouded in despair.