It is much easier to reach the Columbia River which empties into the Pacific, or to pitch a tent at the Athabaska River flowing to polar lakes, than to penetrate that zone marked by the zig-zag silver lines on the collar of his father’s uniform. It is the spring of the year nineteen hundred twenty, they live on Embankment Street, just by the Church of Saint Jacob, and who would have supposed that one man could preserve inside himself, so vividly, that aroma of flowers, benches, vespers? In a britzka with a soldier on the driver’s seat they ride along the Wilia to Antokol and beyond, out of town, where sappers have been stationed on the banks of the river. And everything is green, batteries painted that particular olive-green seen now for the first time, and an armored car, and the green outside the window when his father sings:
On the banks of the beautiful Loire,
There was my birth and my cradle.
Two kinds of goods flow from that land:
Beautiful ribbons and rifles.
What is that song about? About weapons sent from France? About an armored car? And they sing this, also: