I'm preparing a workshop presentation for a Germans from Russia geneology meeting next month where I'll be sharing my experiences in writing my upcoming novel. So I've been thinking a lot about the research I've done to understand Olga's world. I've mentioned some of these things in this blog - big things - like Siberia and Gulags and Stalin. But there were little things, too. And some of them were quite ugly little things. Take the bedbugs, for instance.
Wanzen - that's what my mom called them. I never bothered to figure out what they were. They just belonged to the general horror of her time in Siberia. But when I started seriously writing about her youth, I had to figure out what these 'wanzen' were. They were bedbugs.
My youngest child would recite the bedbug poem almost every night before bed. "Good night, sleep tight, make sure the bedbugs don't bite. And if they do, take a shoe, and wack them 'til they're black and blue." I had no idea of the nightmare of my mom's Siberian nights.
Bedbugs are brown oval creatures that shun daylight and that bite humans. They took over the barracks where the exiles slept. They'd fall from the ceilings or the upper beds and crawl all night over the faces of the exhausted humans. Children would wake up, unable to open their eyes because of the welts from the bugs.
Bedbugs are making the news in our city because changes in pesticide laws and increased world travel are letting these annoying insects multiply. The only good thing about bedbugs is that unlike lice they don't carry disease. They only suck your blood. Small comfort.