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Columns

Lived, Lives, Will Live
Fred Flintstone

Babushka called from the Flintstone’s old apartment. She was with a handyman to take off the steel door, the final step to abandoning Fred’s residence of ten years. The building is to be torn down as part of the city’s slow but steady replacement of 50s era Khruschovki, the five-story, panel construction apartment buildings that were built to accommodate a growing post-war population. Wilma inherited the apartment from her grandfather, and it was renovated when Fred Jr was born. “We’re too late. Someone pried the door open. It’s ruined and the apartment is trashed,” Babushka reported.

Fred, Wilma and Fred Jr had moved to the replacement just after Christmas, located on an upper floor of a new building overlooking the river. The city provides a moving truck and movers. Fred was wary and decided that the family would move small goods themselves and leave the furniture to the husky folks. Fred was surprised how quickly and efficiently the movers worked. The apartment was empty in less than an hour and furnishings moved into the new place within another hour. He was amazed to see one worker carrying the washing machine draped over his back and another with the big old TV down six flights of stairs and through the snow to the truck. They worked without pads or carts, but Fred found no damage when he got into his new home for the first night.

Every day during the following week the family shuttled goods over in the snow and -20C temperatures until a few days before the end of the holiday. One morning, back in the old flat, Fred and Fred Jr saw that wooden doors of three apartments below had been kicked in; the steel doors had already been removed. Two days later, three men with clipboards stopped Fred and Fred Jr. “Which is your apartment; are you still living there; do you have anything there?” they asked. “If so, get it out by the 9th or 10th at latest.” Fred had seen other buildings nearby that were already abandoned, windows broken and visible fire damage to a couple of apartments. Fred heard that crews come in late at night to strip and salvage and even break through walls to get in.

Father and son took three more trips, the last on the 9th. They peered out of all the windows. Fred Jr wept; this had been his only home so far; he suggested they write something on the wall, “He lived, he lives, he will live,” Lenin’s memorial slogan. The Flintstones had abandoned furniture, clothes, books, fixtures accumulated but no longer needed, a sure treasure trove for the night hawks. But Babushka wanted the door.

This was the end of a story that began years ago; the Flintstones knew their building was on the list when they moved in, but they weren’t about to hold their collective breath waiting. Then on Sunday two years ago the small wood around the building was cut down, replaced by a road construction site complete with a Central Asian worker village under their window. The Flintstones realized that the day was drawing closer, but it was just last summer when notices began to appear glued to the building entry door.

The family watched the construction of new buildings nearby, which they heard that might be their destination. Then rumor had it that the nearest, a panel building, would be theirs. Wilma dubbed it the “Big Toilet” when she saw it, the sides decorated with white plaster and light blue tiles. Finally, a notice was pasted to the entrance with a date and time to show up at the local administration office to sign a contract. Though Wilma was given little choice about location, fate rewarded the Flintstones with a sturdy, concrete building directly on the river. Fred was happy that the building was nearby, not far out in a remote suburb, and with an unobstructed 180-degree view of the river. He is itching to tell the story of the months that followed the day they first hiked up ten floors for a first look at their new home.







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