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Ivan Modunkaev, My Mother



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Terbish, Baasanjav 


Ivan reminisces about his mother whom he loved dearly: There is nobody dearer or holier than one’s mother. I myself brought up four children. Now I am 80. I have many grandchildren and great grandchildren. When my wife died, at 32 I was left with four children to look after. I was young and inexperienced. It is good that my mother was alive. With her my children grew up as if they were never orphans. Not to listen to your mother is a big sin. When we were in Siberia, my mother fell ill and lay on the top of a Russian stove for a long time. She did not eat. Neither did she drink water. She was sick for four months. We have a Kalmyk saying that to a good person a doctor comes by himself/herself. It was in February and all around was covered in deep snow. The gypsies were going from one house to the next, asking for fodder for their horses and food for themselves. They entered our dugout, asking: ‘Is there anybody inside?’ My mother slowly got off the stove and sat down. At that time, I was in the third grade, and my older brothers were away at work. A Gypsy woman said to my mother that she would heal her, and asked for two bottles of vodka (as payment). She treated my mother for several days. My mother was 42. She lived to see 80. I pitied my mother and cleaned the floor myself. When she was sick I thought to myself: ‘We are three brothers. If our mother dies tomorrow, what will we do? It would be better if one of us dies instead of her’. I had such an attitude towards my mother. That is why (when she died) she passed her happiness and blessing on to me. In my family people do not live long. I live long. My mother helped me bring up my children. I was the closest to her among her three sons. She loved me most, and I loved her, too.



Mother, memory

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Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge

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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin