The story of love and the plague
Ilya. And-and-I. The name is like the ringing of a thin transparent piece of ice. Tall, handsome, slightly overweight young man. Dandy antennae, dandy pince-nez, which he continually drops. Distraction and inattention, worthy to enter into jokes. Behind the Corps of Pages, Military Medical Academy with honors, a bright future ... And still behind the work as a volunteer on two cholera epidemics. Ahead - the Chinese border, Harbin, the plague ...
Anya. Ah The name is light and warm, like breathing, like a short and gentle handshake. Low and thin, with a dark blond oblique and attentive look ... Behind the courses of sisters of mercy, dreams of happiness, books about love ... Ahead of the Chinese border, Harbin, the plague.
Subsequently, the Harbin plague of 1910-1911 will be called the worst in the last few centuries. By that time, doctors could already fight the bubonic form of the plague, fight, and often win. In Harbin, there was a pneumonic plague — the most terrible, the most deadly. Massively, and not individual cases, it has not been encountered anywhere since the medieval "black death". Prophylactic vaccinations were not protected from her, there was no treatment for her. From her just died. And they died quickly, in a few hours, in a couple of days, rarely did they manage to stretch for 5-6 days ... And the lives of thousands of people can be saved only in one way - to prevent the spread of the disease. Isolate the sick. Burn the corpses. Disinfect infected homes and things. Exterminate the rats. Stand up human shield between the "black death" and the whole world ...
On the outskirts of Harbin, a plague point grew up, which the residents would immediately call Moskovsky - no matter where the doctors who worked there actually came from. Four plague barracks. Insulating hut. Poured with bleach and poured sublimate carts "volatile" sanitary squad. Disinfection squad carts loaded with drums of carbolic acid and the same lime.
There Ilya Mamontov and Anna Snezhkova met.
It’s hard to come up with less suitable scenery for a love story. January frosts, trampled muddy snow and piercing wind. A large, ungainly built city is a city of temporary houses and hovels with earthen floors and paper-covered windows. The adobe fanzi huts, in which healthy, sick and deceased are jumbled together. Heavy thick smoke of fires in which infected rags and corpses burn. Sharp, acrid smell of bleach, sweetish stench of carbolic acid. Monstrous dirt, poverty and overcrowding. But Ilya and Ani were young. And love.
They knew so little about each other! They had no time to get to know how young people get acquainted in everyday life. They did not have time to talk about books and music, about politics and history ... They knew so much about each other! They knew how each of them was able to work - to exhaustion, not sparing himself. They knew that each of them was not afraid to face death. The fact that they met here in the plague told them a lot about each other - there were only volunteers.
And death was already walking around them, coughing in their faces, spitting blood. The first, in December, died French bacteriologist Gerard Meunier, who taught at one of the Chinese schools of medicine and came to Harbin as a volunteer, like all of them. The first commander of the "flying squad" student Lev Belyaev died - handsome, funny and talent. Doctors Maria Aleksandrovna Lebedeva from Moscow region and Vladimir Martynovich Michel from Tomsk died ... And after all, all of them gathered here knew what they were going for - for most of them it was not the first epidemic. What brought them here, why did they come from all over Russia - from St. Petersburg and Moscow, Tomsk and Novosibirsk? Professor Zabolotny, convening doctors, spoke about the need to "fight the plague in her lair," not to allow a terrible disease across the border, to Russia. Student Mamontov wrote in a suicide letter about the need to work for the sake of "the future happiness of mankind." And when Isaev, after Belyaev who headed the "flying squad", was asked about this after nearly half a century, he would gleam with his eyes: "It was interesting!"
Their love was released so little - only about a month ... They did not have to whirl together in dance, read poems to each other on the nightingale nights, write funny and touching notes to each other ... They were not given to live together happily. They only had time to die almost in one day.
Sister of Mercy Anna Snezhkova worked in an isolation hut, which received patients with an unclear diagnosis, with unconfirmed suspicion of the plague. As the diagnosis was clarified, the patients had to be transferred to the hospital, to the plague barracks. But the plague often killed before the tests were done in the laboratory - and people in the isolation hut died, every day they died ...
It will take another 35 years before it is possible to cure a person from pneumonic plague. In the meantime, you can only ease the dying of the last days and hours of life. Feed the water. Wipe the sweat. To support with a camphor injection a weakening heart. Just shake hands.
Full anti-plague suit includes a rubberized jumpsuit under a white robe, rubber boots and rubber gloves, glasses, "canned" and a cotton-gauze bandage that covers half of the face. The last thing that they see dying in the barrack is the masked faces of the orderlies and the cold shine of the glasses, behind which you can not see the eyes ... Anya took off her gloves so that with warm hands she could shake the dying hands with her hands. She took off her mask, bent low to her bed, whispered words of comfort. She tried to be careful, carefully disinfected ... No, she did not risk wasting - just doing her job, helping people. Helped as she could. So she worked for a month. February had already begun, and the epidemic was already waning, when Anya coughed and saw blood stains on a scarf ...
At the hospital, Ilya courted her. He sat nearby, gave hot tea and broth with a spoon, told about his mother, sisters, about his adopted son - 12-year-old Petka, who was orphaned by cholera epidemics ... Comrades asked Illya to be more careful - but can one be careful when his beloved one dies? They tried to remove him from the care of Anya - but is it not conceivable not to be with her in the last hours, which were released by his fate?
Then Ilya got sick too. The disease crept up to him gradually - low temperature, a slight cough, clean tests. And there was already hope that Ilya really had a cold. Only in the fourteenth sample were plague bacteria detected ...
In the ward of the plague barrack, Ilya wrote a letter to his mother. Previously, it was impossible to write everything in detail, there was no time. And now suddenly there was some free time ...
“Dear mother, I fell ill with some kind of nonsense, but since the plague does not get sick with anything other than the plague, it means that this is it ...” These words will subsequently be recited hundreds of times and recited by heart. And the following lines sound so unexpectedly naive, almost childishly: "My dear mom, I feel hurt that this will cause you sadness, but nothing can be done, I’m not to blame for this, since I took all the measures promised at home . "
Ilya did not know that this letter would remain forever in the history of medicine next to Deminsky's telegram. By a telegram that will be sent after 3 years: "Reveal my body as a case of experimental infection of a person from gophers ..." And Ilya did not think, of course, about any place in history. "We did not expect posthumous glory, we wanted to live with glory ..." However, these poems, too, have not yet been written.
And if he knew about his posthumous glory, then, without a doubt, would exchange it for a living. And more truly - on the life of Ani. Although about the death of Ani, he also did not know.
On February 14, Professor Zabolotny brought Ilya some lethargic tulips. Where, how did he find them in a disease-ridden city?
- Give them better Anya!
“Anya already has flowers ...”
The comrades never told Ilya that Anya died the day before, and the flowers were laid in her coffin.
And in the evening twilight on February 15 Ilya died.
Of the Russian anti-plague organization of the plague killed 39 people. Of these, 2 doctors, 2 students, 4 medical assistants, 1 sister of mercy, 30 nurses. In total, 942 doctors died in Manchuria during the epidemic. Eternal memory to them. And the eternal glory of their deed, perfect in the name of "the future happiness of mankind", which he dreamed of, dying, and the student of Ilya Mamontov who had not completed his education.