Compounding memory

I first visited Leningrad with my family when I was fourteen.

The light seemed different, the defiantly-broad officers uniform caps adorned with red and gold seemed curiously from a bygone era and yet menacing.

Perhaps this was indeed where Europe met the East.

This was my first East.

the monuments – mostly of Lenin. A great utilitarian vastness. Beige trams clogged the streets their bow collectors scraping the overhead wires as if with a giant violin.

The endless vista of Nevsky Prospekt and somehow I remember overhanging birch trees – By far the most impressive was the Constructivist inspired 1926 statue created by sculptor Sergei A. Evseev of Lenin at the Finland Station capturing Lenin, right arms and hand extended giving his 1917 homecoming speech atop of a plinth inspired not by an equestrian statue of bygone days but by the pill box top of an armored car.

In 1978 I was superimposing images of Lenin from magazines I would have seen, from films….
Was I hallucinating Lenin? Where did the layers having glimpsed Lenin in some form or other invade my fourteen-year-old experience?

At that time I was not looking for Lenin – he just seemed omnipresent. Like exclamation points on strategic corners and plazas the city was punctuated by Lenins in all shapes and sizes. I had also seen my share in 1977 in the Crimea in Yalta. Lenins festooned my mind like some fantastical stamp collection. A Lenin here in Petrograd, another there in Yalta. They haunted me. They flavored my memory.

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