Vanka by Anton Chekhov

Christmas Stories

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 …


Portrait of the Boy

Portrait of the Boy (1874) Konstantin Makovsky
~ source Wikiart


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.


Shoemaker (1881) Max Liebermann
~ source Wikiart

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?

The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree – John Henry Twachtman
~ source Wikiart

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  ⇒


13 thoughts on “Vanka by Anton Chekhov

  1. I love this book, the cover is so beautiful! Reminds me of The Goldfinch 🙂 I actually can’t remember is I had this out from the library at some point or own it… off to investigate.

    • I’ve liked the initial stories but I’m wondering if I will like the rest as well. The authors are going outside my preferred centuries of reading but I’m going to keep an open mind. I hope you find it at your library! Take care!

    • Oh Tom, I was trying to have some sort of useless hope. When he put his grandfather’s name on it, I thought … maybe, just maybe …..

      Is this really his saddest story? If so, I won’t dread more Chekhov stories.

  2. i can’t read Chekhov; he’s either depressing or boring… something must be missing in my lit gene, i guess… splendid pictures; i don’t know how you find such wonderful images…

    • Yes, unfortunately, I’m starting to feel that way too. But I’m not giving up, at least not yet.

      Thanks! It’s fun to travel back in the past with pictures too!

  3. I am going to look up this book of Christmas stories!

    As I read your review of Vanka, I couldn’t help but think of poor little Cosette in Les Mis when she had to stay with the Thenardiers…. 🙁

  4. I’m afraid I’m not a huge Chekhov fan, but that’s probably due to the fact that I’ve read so little of his work.
    That Evreyman’s Collection sounds quite interesting. I really like that imprint and have several books from it; perhaps I’ll look for this collection as well, as I’m getting over my barrier against reading short stories.

    • I’ve read only a little of Chekhov with high hopes and I believe my hopes are descending. 😏😩 I’ve only read about 4 short stories though, so I really should try one of his longer works.

      So far the Everyman collection has been excellent (I think Tolstoy’s story is my favourite so far) but the stories I’ve read have been from authors with whom I’m familiar and like their works. The remaining stories are from “newer” authors and I’m a little apprehensive of them however, I’ll approach them with an open mind and we’ll see.

      Short stories aren’t my favourite but if you hit on a good one, it can be so exciting.

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