Sleeping With Pigs in Siberia

Ruth Markiewicz // Swampscott, MA

In the Kolchose[1] of the Soviet Union in the 1940s, each house had a kitchen and one room in a small house, plus a little land. You could grow potatoes, have a cow, a pig, and raise a few chickens. This is what was allowed. As Jews, we lived over there with the animals. We helped the Russians to bring the potatoes into the house and they used to give us a few potatoes in return. We slept on the floor. It was a very primitive life: no electricity, a little kerosene lamp, a shower once a week.

We lived with this one woman. She had two or three kids; she also had a pig. And one day the pig got sick, and she didn’t have any place to bring it, so she took in the pig to the house. We were sleeping over there with the pig.

My mother had heart trouble much of her life. Sleeping with that pig probably affected her. We didn’t even know about it until we came to America years later and she was in Beth Israel hospital. Two doctors said, “we have to ask you something—has your mother ever slept with animals?” For a minute we forgot about it. Then I said, “yeah yeah, she slept with a sick pig.” And he said to us, “ you know, it shows in her blood.”

How do you like that? She never ate pork but the pig stayed with her body all those years.

1 The Kolchose was a Soviet Government agrarian project in which land management was controlled by a socialist collective in remote areas of the USSR.

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