Mama Chaya


It’s May of 1946, Soviet Union, Chaya is painting. Her husband just passed in the war and she has two beautiful children to care for. Her daughter with soft golden curls that catch the sun even when the clouds drown it out, looks up to mama because she too had hair of a goddess, one who never realized her strength until papa couldn’t support her. Her son with the strong senses and incredibly loving, blue eyes. Radiant like his sister’s. Both looking up at Chaya and asking for life. It is in her name, she would never disappoint.

After the six dire years of World War II, Chaya tried to find her light. Every morning, she would pin her golden curls back and put on a steady face. She always wore a fitted white blouse and a long-flowered skirt that hit her right above the ankles. She was absolutely beautiful, her love would always tell her. And now her children say the same because papa’s words can never leave. A radiant woman is strong in her mind and soft with her touch, that is the woman that Chaya always was. After her skirt was caught by the wind through the crack in the window, she would carefully put her cardigan on, yelling for her children to place the kettle on the stove. Over a sweater is always a coat.

To keep warm she wrapped white ripped sheets around her thin neck. She would tuck the ends in her coat and softly raise her hair from underneath the fabric so that her face stood illuminated. Her children had matching ones of course. Both white with frayed edges that she could not control. Asik and Polina cherished them. Everytime an edge would tear they would try to mend it, care for it the way Chaya cared for them. Mama, they would call.


Before papa left, he would cradle them; his brown wool coat kept them warm. After the coat was gone it was just the white scarves that they had, their tenuous facade. Polina’s light curls hampered the scarves while Chaya warmed kettles. Tea with bitter blackberries at night, every night. It became routine just after she painted in her black sketchbook. She painted light air and silky nightfall.

Chaya knew that she could not sustain this life for very long. They might have had a kettle but not much else. Chaya felt life the most was when she dragged her paintbrush from her book to the soft white sheets. The airy sky with the star of her love splendid had appeared.


A painted scarf, what a marvelous act. Polina, Asik, she would call.

Chaya sold every scarf she painted, every single one she cut. They bought a blanket to keep them warm at night. The same blanket that Polina and her love then used. Polina met her love, David in 1956. They were the only thing that the other needed. Chaya gave Polina life and she was always certain of that. Chaya was life while David, beloved. David was a painter. One day he would paint the stars in the sky and another he would paint Polina. Her lips and her golden curls the perfect shades of pink and yellow. They had children and grandchildren and felt inexplicable love.


But imagine it, an illuminated room, how extraordinary. A yellow light that reeks of love, one others can’t bear. I want to be painted. I want my love to look at every piece of me and say here it is, I am putting it on this white scarf for you to see how light you are, how light you give me. Look at my lips down to my chin, every pore and stray hair and say that I am absolutely beautiful. Like David said to Polina every morning- how could he not, her golden curls were the first thing he thought of when his eyes flickered open, her pink lips were painted even in his flowers.


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