Anna Berseneva

Sovpadenia Coincidences
3 Novels. AST. Moscow 2023. approx. 350 pages each

The contemporary part of the first two books takes place in Russia (Moscow) and Belarus (Minsk, Polesie) 2019-2021. The historical part begins in 1924 in Belarus, and continues in 1926 in Algier, Paris, Moscow. The modern part of the third book is happening 2022 in Russia. The historical part (1930s-1950s) of the third book takes place in Russia (Moscow, the Far East), Belarus (Minsk, Polesie) and Germany. All plot lines are intertwined.

Vol. 1 Veronica’s Nets
Ancestors who have long since disappeared into the darkness of time affect us much more than we think. However, thirty-year-old Alesya does not have time to think about such abstract things. Working as a nurse in a Moscow hospital, she barely has enough strength to support her family back home in Polesia. But the past is becoming more and more evident in Alesya‘s character. Her career choice is no coincidence either – her great-grandmother Veronica became a nurse during the First World War and had to make the big decisions in life amidst many dangers. When the son of a deceased nursing patient proposes to Alesya, she asks for time to think it over.

The modern plot line relates to Alesia: Returning from friend‘s hospitable dacha, Alesia sees a man who is buying a blackberry from a wino. Noticing the girl‘s gaze, he excuses himself: „To the beggar, give!“ An introduction occurs. Igor, who learns that Alesia is a nurse, invites her to visit his mother, who is in need of medical care. She agrees. The benefits are obvious – she is offered a place to live along with her job. A friendly relationship develops between her and one day Igor proposes to Alesia to live with him. The girl takes a pause to think. And with this she leaves for Pinsk, to her parents and her son from an affair with a married man who had seduced young Alesia. When Alesia rushes to find her son lost in the marshes of Polesie, she navigates the terrain as if she inherited her great-grandmother‘s topographical memory. She finds him with a fishing rod on a hard spot, not daring to take a step because the swamps are all around. When they return home together, Alesia realizes that she will not marry Igor.

The historical plot line relates to her great-grandmother Veronika: In Bagnici, a farmstead located in Polesie, where the sea of Herodotus once was, near Pinsk, in the family of a Polish nobleman lived a girl Veronika, who was raised by two elements: the cultural – the father‘s, associated with Latin, philosophy, poetry, and the natural – associated with oral folk art of Polesie. Meanwhile, during World War I, Veronika leaves her college studies in Minsk and goes to work in a hospital as a nurse. There she meets a young Polish man, who proposes marriage to her. She accepts him, but leaves the connection for the time when her work at the hospital is over. And that time comes during the civil war. The groom, through her aunt, gives Veronika money for an escort to take her across the border. The escort man, Sergei, is wounded during the crossing. Veronika does not leave him. She saves him at the expense of her marriage. She takes him to the house where she rented a room trying to rescue him. When Sergei proposes to Veronika to leave for Moscow she is dissolved in love but also understands that Sergei holds some kind of great position in secret service. Soon it becomes clear to Veronika will not link her life with a man whose hands are splattered with the blood of innocent people. Sergei tries to explain, but has no right to give away the secret that he is a spy, working in intelligence.

Just like her great-grandmother, Alesia does. Once being among a crowd of protesters against the arbitrariness of the Russian authorities, she gives first aid to a man who has had an attack of epilepsy. She is helped in this by a man, Zhenia, who turns out to be an employee of an international company „Doctors Without Borders“. Alesia suggests to hide for a while and to go with her to Bagnici. A harmonious relationship develops between them, in which there is also a place for her son. In Bagnici they find the statue „Veronichka“ carved out of wood. The fact that the figure was preserved in the attic of the Bagnici house, turns out to be related to the great-grandmother, who is so similar to Alesia, reminding of the abyss of life, of the darkness of its impenetrable. Returning to Moscow, Alesa realizes that Evgeny, with whom she was bound by passion, does not consider her and her son as a future family. And she puts a period to their relationship. She rents an apartment outside Moscow. She is saved from a rapist by Evgeni, who only upon returning home suddenly realizes that he can‘t live without Alesya. But she has already moved out of her dangerous rented apartment. Evgeni picks up all the connections and in the end finds his beloved.