Nadia couldn’t accept that her son was dead. She wanted to see him one last time, just one last time. So, in the dead of night, she ran to her son’s grave. “I’m coming for you, baby. I will see you soon,” she wept as she dug. But when she finally opened the coffin, she was speechless.
It was a dark and cold night; it was drizzling, so most of the villagers were indoors and fast asleep. In a nearby river close to a graveyard, frogs were croaking loudly. In that graveyard, two men dug a tomb with all their strength. Even though it was cold, they were sweating like a sinner in church. “Keep digging, go faster,” Nadia whispered as tears streamed down her eyes.
“Do you want to take the dead man’s body away? Why do you want to disturb the dead?” one of the men who was digging asked. “You won’t understand, he’s my son. I just want to see his face one last time. Dig faster!” Nadia almost screamed. Just then, she sank to the ground, and memories of the past filled up her mind.
Nadia was 42 years old when she finally gave birth to her son Ivan. At 21, she tied the knot with her childhood friend Albert. Unfortunately, after their marriage, Nadia couldn’t conceive, and the doctors eventually told her she would never have children. After 19 years of marriage, Albert packed up his bags one morning and left. Nadia was devastated, and she became a laughing stock in the village.
A year later, Nadia’s neighbor Rachel had a visitor; his name was Nikolai, and he was Rachel’s cousin. Nadia noticed that the boy, who was in his early twenties, often stared at her seductively. Two weeks later, Rachel asked Nadia if she could get Nikolai a job at the company where she worked, and she agreed. The following week, Nikolai started working alongside Rachel, and this made them close. During this period, Nadia fell helplessly in love with Nikolai but hid her feelings from him. What would people say if they learned that she was in love with a man half her age? Trust me, she did a good job concealing her feelings.
Until one day when Nikolai visited her unannounced. “I see the way you look at me. You’re crazy about me,” Nikolai whispered and caressed Nadia’s long blonde hair. Nadia tried to resist him, but he was quite charming, and they ended up in bed. Much to Nadia’s surprise, Nikolai turned cold to her the next day at work, and he stopped taking her calls. When Nadia confronted him, he screamed at her, “I don’t want to be with an old woman like you. Get lost.”
Nadia counted her losses and moved on, but something shocking happened the next month. Nadia found out that she was pregnant. When she returned from the hospital, she also learned that Nikolai had gone back home. “Yes, perfect. He doesn’t need to know about the baby. I will keep the child and love it endlessly,” Nadia thought.
While pregnant, Nadia locked herself indoors because she was embarrassed. She hated the way the villagers stared at her stomach. Although no one dared ask her about the father of her child, the question was boldly written in their curious eyes. In due time, Nadia gave birth to a baby boy and named him Ivan. As soon as she carried the little boy in her arms, she felt at peace. Every pain and betrayal she suffered was now worth it.
Ivan grew up to be a happy and vibrant boy, and everyone loved him. He was brilliant and excelled in his studies. In his senior year, he fell in love with his classmate Sasha. They studied together and made plans for the future after graduating high school. Ivan told his mom that he would go into the military. Nadia tried to discourage him, but his mind was made up. Soon enough, he left for his military base.
Five days after Ivan left, Nadia got a disturbing call from Sasha. “Hello Auntie, have you heard the news? There is an ongoing war in the border where Ivan was posted,” Sasha said amidst tears. Nadia was worried sick, but later that day, Ivan called her. “Where are you? I’m so worried. Are you okay?” Nadia asked. However, when she heard her son’s voice, she felt at ease. He sounded happy and told her he wouldn’t be joining the war since he was newly recruited. “I will call you tomorrow. Kisses,” Ivan said and hung up. But the next day, Nadia didn’t hear from him. She kept her phone beside her, but still, there were no calls from Ivan.
The following week, she went to the military enlistment office to ask about her son, and they told her that he was safe. Before Nadia knew it, three months had passed by, and there was still no news about her son.
Then, in the fourth month, she got a call from the military enlistment office asking her to come to the headquarters. When she got there, they told her Ivan died of a heart attack, and they promised to send his death certificate later in the week. When Nadia asked about her son’s body, they told her he had already been buried there since they couldn’t send his body over because of the war.
After hearing of her son’s death, Nadia became a shadow of herself. A few days later, she was deep in her thoughts that she didn’t notice when Sasha entered the house. When she finally saw her, she wept harder. “My Ivan is gone, my baby is gone. What am I still doing on Earth?” Nadia cried. Just then, someone knocked on the door, and Sasha went to get it.
It was a courier, and he handed over Ivan’s death certificate to Sasha. When Sasha gave Nadia the document, the poor woman flung it away and ran into her room with tears in her eyes. Sasha picked up the document and noticed something strange. The documents showed that Ivan had died of pneumonia. “How could that be? The military enlistment office said he had died of a heart attack,” Sasha wondered, and she told Nadia about her findings.
Filled with fury and confusion, the women traveled to where Ivan was posted and demanded an exhumation autopsy. “Crazy women, you must be out of your mind. We will do nothing of the kind. Accept our condolences and leave,” the head of the unit said. Just then, Nadia fell to her knees and held the military officer’s legs. “If you don’t do that, then take me to my son’s grave. Let me pay my respects. I will die of worry if I don’t know where my son’s body is,” Nadia begged desperately. The head of the unit ordered a soldier to take the women to the graveyard.
When the women got there, they learned more shocking details. The date of birth on the tomb didn’t match Ivan’s actual birth details, and the surname was also spelled wrongly. The women went back to the headquarters and made a complaint, but they were told it was a mistake. Later that evening, Nadia and Sasha returned to the hotel where they were lodging, and they cried their eyes out.
But when it was time to go to bed, an idea struck Nadia. “I must see my son one last time. I must see my Ivan,” Nadia said and whispered her plan into Sasha’s ears.
The next morning, the women looked for two homeless men and paid them heavily to dig up Ivan’s grave. Later that night, the men went with Nadia and Sasha to the grave. Soon enough, Nadia joined the men in digging, and she dug with all her strength. After 30 minutes, they finally reached the coffin. With trembling fingers, Nadia threw the lid open, and when she saw what was in the coffin, she was speechless. There was nothing but a dead cockroach in it. So where was Ivan’s body?
Nadia reported the case to the police right away, and the truth surfaced. As it turned out, Ivan and his mates were asked to fight in the war. However, the boys were frightened, and they ran away. The military unit eventually found everyone except Ivan, so they assumed he was dead and faked his death certificate. The unit organized a mass burial for all the dead soldiers, but Ivan’s coffin was empty.
Six months passed, and a lot happened. The military personnel involved in Ivan’s case faced the full wrath of the law. As for Nadia, she started to look older than her age. Each morning, she sat in the living room thinking about her dead son. If he were alive, how would he look now, she often wondered.
Then one day, someone knocked on the door, and Nadia went to get it. When she opened the door, she froze. Ivan was standing in front of her. Although he looked pale and lean, he had a big smile on his face. “Ivan, is that you? Is this real?” Nadia whispered. “It’s me, Mama. I’m back,” Ivan said slowly. Nadia touched her son’s face to be sure she wasn’t seeing a ghost. “Indeed, it’s you,” she screamed and fainted.
A few minutes later, Nadia woke up, and she saw her beloved son beside her. He told her everything that happened. As it turned out, he was held captive by the enemy soldiers and had just been released. Once out, he had found his way home. “I’m so glad that you’re here,” Nadia said and hugged her son happily.
A year later, Ivan was admitted into college to study medicine, and he promised never to leave his mom’s side again. Of course, he and Sasha remained lovebirds.