Another Christmas season and it’s time to pull out my Everyman’s Pocket Classics with 20 Christmas stories, each written by a well-known classic author. This year we start with Anton Chekhov’s short story Vanka. which is the sixth story in the compilation and one that will pull at your heartstrings. So let’s meet Vanka …
Vanka is a little nine-year-old boy who has been apprenticed by his grandfather to the shoemaker, Aliakhin. His life in the Aliakhin household has not been easy as he has had to endure abuse, neglect and indifference during his three months there.
Tonight, on Christmas Eve, he is sitting alone in the house as the family and the other workers have gone to midnight service without him.
Taking out pen and paper, Vanka begins a letter to his grandfather, Konstantin Makaritch. As he writes, he remembers the times with his family but especially his grandfather who, though sixty-five, is spritely, lively, and although he can display politeness and submissiveness is, in reality, as cunning as a fox.
In Vanka’s letter, he relates his mistreatment by his master and begs his grandfather to bring him home again:
“Dear grandfather, show the divine mercy, take me away from here, home to the village. It’s more than I can bear. I bow down to your feet, and will pray to God for you for ever, take me away from here or I shall die.”
Vanka thoughts fill up with the happy memories of Christmastime and they spill from his pen along with more heartfelt pleas for his grandfather’s assistance. When he finishes his letter, he addresses it: to grandfather in the village, and then as an afterthought adds: Konstantin Makaritch.
Will Vanka be rescued to enjoy a happy Christmas or will he be left at the shoemaker’s, a devastated little boy without any Christmas love or cheer?
I found this story a little unsettling. On one hand, one wants Vanka to be rescued, but the description of his grandfather wasn’t reassuring. In any case, for Vanka, his grandfather was certainly preferable to Makaritch so one can only hope his wish comes true!
The next story is The Burglar’s Christmas by Willa Cather. I haven’t read a Cather story in awhile. I’m looking forward to it!
⇐ Where Love Is, God Is The Burglar’s Christmas ⇒