Elena Govor, My Dark Brother, Sydney, 2000
Untold love story
It was a rainy night in Malanda and we were gathered in Margaret’s kitchen when Vera Ketchell brought us a bag full of letters and papers preserved by her father Dick. Margaret, Flora’s daughter, and Vera were cousins, both Leandro’s granddaughters. We piled heaps of letters, which luckily had been spared by cockroaches and mice, onto the kitchen table, and the first to lie in my hand was a letter dated 3 October 1910. It began with a desperate appeal, ‘Lenushka, if you knew how bad it is after you left!’
‘Lenushka ...’ Just what his mother would have called him when he was a child. And now it was a Russian girl addressing him with this tender name, a girl he left behind in Brisbane to join his family on the Atherton Tablelands. Eighty-six years ago, somewhere not far from where we are now Leandro read the letter over and over again, listening to this same tropical rain. It was his second month in Australia, in a new land; no one could say what destiny was awaiting him or, rather, what destiny he would choose for himself. But through all that happened to him he carried these four pages covered by half-faded, impetuous handwriting till his last days. And for fifty more years, mute, they were kept by his son, Dick. Four pages from a book without beginning or end....