• Tabitha Orr

Katiya’s Story

I was 15 when I died.

Born in 1866. Pskov, Russia

My papa worked on the river docks. I tagged along and found I was good at learning languages. First person in my family to learn to read. Oldest of 7 and only one who lived long enough to live. Papa was a good man outside of the bottle, once he climbed inside his demons were freed. Free to make the walls shake, a baby stop crying or make the world dark. Soldiers came and took him one night. Weeks went by, Mama didn’t realize that she was free. The loneliness took Mama before the cold. I found her sitting in the snow, diamond crystals like tears across her face. I buried her where she laid not far from my brothers and sisters. What else was there for me now. I traveled to Tartu to catch a train towards Reval. I had used everything I could to trade for money for the ticket so I snuck into the baggage car and found a place to hide and sleep. The hunger was terrible. In one of the trunks I found a bag of sweets and the clothes of a boy about my size. A boy could travel easier. Bundled in the finest clothes I had ever known I was able to pass. I passed enough I was able to get work on a ship bound for Copenhagen. I had never seen so much ice. Our first stop was in Finland and shortly after some came down with a sickness. It wasn’t until we got halfway to Stockholm that I felt it too. As we neared Copenhagen I was unable to leave my hammock. In my fever I was taken off the ship and woke after what turned out to be two weeks at the house of the town Doctor. I had been found out at not being a boy and the Doctor being a childless widower needed someone to take care of his house. I thought to myself he must need a woman and the life looked like a good one. He was kind and gentle. I never heard a harsh word or sting of his hand. Occasionally he would bring me a dress he wanted me to wear, pretty lace, fancy ribbons. He never asked for anything in return. One day he brought home this beautiful dress in a lovely color. He asked me to try it on and could he take some photographs. He had me sit on the bed. He pulled the ribbon from my hair, leaving it to hang loosely. He asked me to unbutton the top of the dress. Looking back I know that I should have been afraid but I had no experience and I thought maybe this was how it was done. It wasn’t until the other man came in I just wasn’t sure what was happening. Doctor told me to relax. The man sat on the bed behind me and lifted the ribbons that had been in my hair. The silk tightened around my neck. I couldn’t breathe but the Doctor did nothing. That was it. That was my life. This was the picture taken before the end. My name was Katiya. I was 15 when I died.

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