The Protection of One Small Flame

Kirsten Borror, North River Gallery
Morning Song by A. Gassel

Alexander Gassel describes boyhood in rural Russia in the 1950's...Trees and children had a special relationship. They were the
place to hide, play and rest. We would climb them to check for apples, eat
cider nuts, and even do something silly like throw nuts and surprise people
passing underneath.

There were kids everywhere playing on the collective farms.
Country boys knew everything about how to survive alone in the forest such as  where to find nuts, what mushrooms to eat, how to build a hut; they were wild
kids. We could go to the forest and do whatever we wished. Life in the city
meant going to the library, playing table tennis, basketball, soccer, and

The forest could be dangerous because of wild dogs. Many were abandoned in the forest by villagers, and they would form packs
like wolves.  Sometimes we would be in
the woods at night, and it was dangerous because the dogs could surround and
attack you. One time when I was with a friend at night alone in the forest we were surrounded by 30 dogs ready to attack. We had a box of matches, and just the single flame of continuously ignited match sticks kept the dogs away. The village remains a special part
of my growing up.