Elena Govor, My Dark Brother, Sydney, 2000
The czarina’s goblet
Well, we have found ‘the truth’, and thus destroyed all other legends. Or have we? Do we need to accept it as the only truth? I do not want to. I do not intend to repeat Pontius Pilate’s question addressed to Christ, hunted to death for his truth. Nikolai had his own truth, too. Whatever his crime was, he expiated it with suffering such as no one could imagine. He pleaded in his ‘Confession’:
Forgive my sins, my motherland,
As I repent committing them.
I’ve paid for them all through my life —
A hunted wolf that’s doomed to die.
And maybe he cried in front of Ge’s painting because he, more than anyone else, recognised in this hunted and despised Christ his brother, his own, well-concealed alter ego. Nikolai’s attempt to realise this alter ego in real life failed; he lost nearly everything — motherland, his good name, part of his family and money. Yet he found the strength to start a new life on what he was left with — his faithful wife and three children — at the other end of the globe, in a shepherd’s slab hut in the Andes.