In the fall of forty-three, the troops of the Voronezh Front beat the Nazis from Left-Bank Ukraine. The rifle division I was in had just liberated the city of Pryluky. After the fighting, exhausted inhabitants began to emerge from the basements and shelters. The city immediately came to life and began to resemble a disturbed hive. People exulted and with tears of joy embraced their liberators. Excited and painfully dear, they crowded around us and, interrupting each other, told about the atrocities and atrocities of the fascists, about the painful and suffering during the occupation.
We stopped to rest on the outskirts of Priluk. There was a small amateur ensemble in the division, and we decided to give a concert for the population. Chose a site in some garden. Collected their artists. And our concert began in the liberated city. The choir sang the popular song “Harness, Boys, Horses”. Lovers of poetry enthusiastically read poems. The dancers famously danced "apple." Residents Priluk heartily applauded the artists. Finally it came to me. I took the violin out of the case and played Schubert's Musical Moment. Called on the "encore" played Kreisler's "Vienna Caprice".
While playing, I suddenly noticed the old man’s gaze in zupane. He stood aside, with his hands on the blunt crank. His eyes constantly watched me from under a straw hat.
After the concert, the old man came up to me. In appearance he was over eighty. Of medium height, lean, without a beard, with a hanging gray mustache. In the features and expression of his face was something ancient, even mythical. Having trampled on the spot, he said:
- Son! Come to my hut, you will be a guest. Do not refuse, respect the old man.
I glanced at my watch. Before construction, there was little more than an hour, but I did not want to grieve with the refusal of the old man. He lived nearby. His hut was in the garden. A tall, sprawling oak grew up at the gate, gleaming with leaves in the rays of the setting sun. As soon as my grandfather opened the gate, a shaggy red dog jumped from a good chick, jumped out of the kennel towards us with hoarse bark.
- Varnak, in place! - the owner sternly shouted at him.
The dog guiltily looked at the old man, wagged his tail, and returned to his booth.
We entered the hut. The room was clean and tidy. It was pleasantly warm and smelled of sage and some other grassy grass.
- Hey, Dmitrievna! Where are you? - shouted imperatively grandfather. - Take a dear guest. Look, what a great guy led!
A thin old woman with faded eyes, in a lilac faded sweater, wide dark skirt, and bowed to me in a belt, came out of the side of the head:
- Grace prosym, good lyudyna. The rich, and so happy.
The master put the crook in the corner, took off his zupan, his hat. I sat down at the table, sat down next to him and said with a kind smile:
- Garny you are a violinist, son. Worse God did not hurt you with talent. So disturbed my soul, already knocked out a tear. Hey! - with childish spontaneity, he said, and was silent, probably, having gone with thoughts to the irretrievably distant past.
Looking at his face wrinkled with fine wrinkles, I thought that the old man was probably the musician himself and asked:
- You, grandfather, seem to play the violin yourself?
- Yes, it seems, - he grinned with a cheerful gleam in his eyes. - I play, but there is no way you. Self-taught. In our family, all were self-taught. And you, you see, studied music by notes? He asked respectfully.
I remembered my village and the three sons of Nikita Litovchenko. Two of them were violinists, and the third played the clarinet. No wedding, no party did without them. They had no musical education, but they played great. They also inspired in me a love for a violin.
The old man listened to me, and his eyes shone with a warm smile, then they became thoughtful. While we were talking, the old woman served on the table fresh tomatoes, lightly salted cucumbers, a few pieces of black bread.
At lunch, the conversation continued. Shaking his hand wide chin, divided by a hole, he looked at me and suddenly dropped:
- I envy you, son. I envy and rejoice. Hey!
- What do you envy, grandfather?
- And the fact that the young, and the fact that the master of the violin to play. Play, be weasel, and let my old woman listen.
The old woman nodded in agreement.
I played the "Song of the Dnieper." At that time, this song just appeared. In her simple and touching words, in the exciting, heart-grabbing melody, there was a lot of anxiety and harsh thoughts. They penetrated into the very soul. The old woman, folding her arms over her chest and slightly bowing her head to the side, stood as spellbound. Leaning against the stove, she wiped tears with her apron. And the grandfather, having propped his gray head with his hands, listened with a gloomy concentration. He seemed to doze off. When I finished playing, the old man got up and, without saying anything, left the hut. His wife gave him a puzzled look: "Where is he?"
Purple twilight peered through the windows. A tart smell of autumn was leaking through the open window. The old woman lit a kerosene lamp. Yellowish highlights on the walls. On the ceiling there was a shaky white circle. I looked at my watch and wanted to leave. But then the old man returned to the hut. In his hands he carefully held the bundle. When I unwrapped it, I saw an old, wiped violin. The old man held her in his hands like a jewel.
- Son! He said excitedly. - This treasured violin for many years. Oh, a lot! My father, God rest his soul, said that his grandfather Ostap was a descendant of Zaporizhzhya Cossacks. Served grandfather Ostap with Tsar Alexander the First. He fought with the French on the Borodino field and on the Berezin River. And there the French general was full. In the carriage, the general had expensive furs stolen in Moscow, gold from the iconostasis and a violin.
The old man was silent for a moment, as if gathering his thoughts, and continued:
- Ostap's grandfather delivered by the authorities of that general, reported to the Cossack ataman: say, and so, take the robber. “You are a good lad, Cossack Ostap!” The chieftain praised him. Any courtesies told him, then he asked: “What is to award you, Cossack? Take what you want. If you want - a fur coat with sable, and if you want - gold with a precious stone ”. The grandmaster Ostap thanked the ataman for affection and says: “If this is your mercy, then give me this violin”. The Cossack chieftain was surprised: “You ask a little, praise! Take the violin and amuse the Cossacks. "
The old man was silent.
- Since then, there is a violin in our family. Our whole race played on it. We played at weddings and funerals. She saw a lot in her age and good and bad. All was now not remember. Dying, father told me: “Petro, son of Mia, take care of this violin more than your eyes. She bequeathed us grandfather Ostap. You will die, tell your son. " Yes, that did not have to. In the last German war killed. There was a grandson, died in this war.
The old man drooped his head. His gray brows lowered and extinguished the gleam in his eyes. He was silent for a long time.
Then he looked at me with sad eyes and said with pain:
- Son! Our clan Laputko ends. Soon I will die, and no one will play the violin.
He looked at me intently, wanted to say something more, but he never said. Bowing his head, thought.
And I wanted to listen to how he plays.
- Maybe you will play, grandfather? - I asked.
The old man did not respond.
- Petro, and the truth, play and you, - the old woman gave voice.
- Hey! - he woke up. - I haven't played for a long time. Since then, the Germans came.
I froze in anticipation of the game of old man Peter Laputsko. He began to tune the violin. Slowly pulled up on the bow of the hair, rubbed with rosin. Bowed the strings, checking the pitch. In the deep silence of the hut he could hear his heavy breathing and the timid voice of the cricket from under the stove.
- I will play you an old song about the Cossack Nalyvayko, which was still played by my grandfather, and my father sang to him.
The old man raised the violin, deftly and habitually pressed her chin to his shoulder. A bizarre shadow swayed along the wall, broke, spreading to the ceiling. The bow swam across the strings smoothly, leading a leisurely sad melody. This song was once sung by Ukrainian peasants in campaigns against the Polish gentry. With it, the Cossacks with the Sich fought and died. And for some reason I heard in this melody the voice of a forest stream, now a sad tune of a shepherd's flute. The old man played confidently, easily and expressively. I was immediately captured by this touching Ukrainian song. The old man played in some kind of ecstasy, but his expression somehow did not harmonize with the melody itself. It seemed to me that he did not hear his game, but was thinking about something else. I have long paid attention to the unusual voice of the violin. Dull-looking, to my surprise, she had a great sounding power, she sang heartfeltly, in some sort of human voice.
Suddenly the melody broke off, the violin fell silent. A cramp brought the violinist's hand together, twisted her fingers, and the bow fell from her hand. I looked at the old man in confusion.
“Grandpa Petro won back,” he said bitterly, raised the violin to his lips and kissed her. Then he carefully held it out to me, saying: - I give you, son. Play on it and remember grandfather Peter Naumovich Laputko from Priluk.
It all happened so unexpectedly that I was confused. Having accepted the gift of the old man, he was embarrassed and did not find words of gratitude and only kissed him silently. I turned the violin in my hands, considered it, tried to get to its secrets: what was the unusual sound of this instrument? It looks like nothing special. The violin is like a violin, only the size is slightly smaller than the others. The varnish had long since worn off, and the violin looked like an old wooden spoon with a peeling paint.
He looked inside and was stunned with amazement. On the plate was the name of its creator - the Italian master Guarneri.
With a sinking heart touched the bows of the strings. Amazing purity poured sounds. Took a few chords. He played the Swan Song of Saint-Saens and felt a thrill in his heart. It seemed that the walls themselves began to sing. Forgetting everything else, I continued to play. I did not hear the door open, a soldier from the political department appeared on the threshold. As if from afar came his voice:
- Comrade captain! We leave.
Many years have passed since then. Big changes have taken place on earth. But the war has not gone from memory. And now, when I take the given violin, I remember our soldiers' concert on the outskirts of Priluk and the bright image of the old man, Peter Naumovich Laputko, rises before my eyes, the memory of which will remain forever in my heart.
To be continued ...