Thursday, September 11, 2008

An ordinary incident in one of their camps in Communist Bulgaria

Something from my other life. is what I took from George and I am telling Karri about George's story which I took to calling The Shroud. Recollection, at times, fills up the room he was telling me of when he had been asking in Bulgaria--- that year when he was there for the whole year--- about what had gone on in the camps under the Communists. He was interested in the camp of Lovech because it was near Pleven where he grew up. He had been surprised the executioners and the victims both wanted to forget their times in the camp. He had been told of an incident which happened with certain regularity. There would be the usual roll-call in the morning after which the men were issued with shovels and other tools but on certain days one man would be issued, in addition to his shovel or rake, a large dirty piece of canvas, that he was expected to carry all day as he went about his assigned digging in the field. This was nothing new. He and everyone knew what was coming. Suddenly, sometime during the day, the man carrying the piece of canvas would be set upon by the guards and slowly and methodically beaten to death with long clubs. The other prisoners and guards would watch this activity. The body would later be rolled onto the canvas and taken away. No one remembered any sound ever being uttered by the guards, the other prisoners or now, the dead man.
This activity never varied except for one time which was mentioned by three of people George talked to. One day the commandant who always participated in the beatings brought along his son who must have been around 11 or 12 years old. The boy was forced to stand close to his father and while he was not allowed to beat the prisoner he was still splashed with the victim's blood and it seemed so calculated, these people said because they remember very specifically how the father had drawn a line in the dirt and told his son to stand behind it, not to move, no matter what.
These details of calculation were what held George and how, while people mentioned them, there was never a second of refection upon what it might mean. There was a polishing of the detail as if that is all that mattered. It could have been that people or the people I talked to did not have sentences to describe what they had seen beyond the facts of what they had seen.
He was sure I could imagine that man carrying the piece of canvas or possibly the boy standing there behind the line in the earth, but you were not there so that might allow your imagination to… though that is unfair