Jane Dougherty’s Words and pictures poetry challenge: The Whisperer


Tasha had taken the cold journey from home in her stride. She examined every passersby closely: the women with their head scarves in shades of mud; the men’s faces hidden by Party caps, their hunched, overcoated shoulders.

She watched the trams and buses jostle through the city, along Gorky Street. The child hardly spoke, her expression curious but calm – she hadn’t reached for her grandmother’s hand once, not even when a milkman’s horse reared as they crossed the road.

‘This way, Tasha.’

The girl followed Ludmilla obediently, wide, dark eyes everywhere as they entered the metro station. The vaulted roof was golden and blood red with Soviet stars, chandeliers and mosaic tiles blinding in electric candlelight.

Ludmilla caught a glimpse of Tasha’s reflection as they rode the escalator to the next platform. That river of brunette hair, the narrow, pale face – she could almost be her Kaya at that age.

The golden station glittered and dissolved. She turned away, not wanting her tears to be seen. Her poor, betrayed Kaya.

A small hand slid into Ludmilla’s and she shivered. ‘Aren’t you looking forward to me getting my special prize, Babushka?’

‘Of course,’ said Ludmilla, trying to smile.

Tasha held her hand for the rest of their journey and it took all Ludmilla’s strength not to scream.


During the Soviet period, children were actively encouraged to inform on adults, even if they were relatives – even if they were their parents. See the story of Pavlik Morozov. Though the truth of the Pavlik legend is contested, the fact he was hailed as a hero by the Soviet state is not.

Written for Jane Dougherty’s Words and pictures poetry challenge. And what a fabulous painting she’s chosen. It’s entitled Moscow Metro and it’s by Michael E. Arth. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be a poetry challenge, but Jane was happy for me to write prose, so here it is.


16 thoughts on “Jane Dougherty’s Words and pictures poetry challenge: The Whisperer

  1. My window is wide open, and it’s not so warm today… maybe that’s what made me shiver. A shocking story, beautifully delivered… then I opened the link to Pavlik’s story. It’s horrendous. Hitler encouraged family members to inform on each other. Funny how the extreme left and and the extreme right sometimes use the same tactics.. .

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, that’s nice, keeping in contact. We’ve been the same, checking in on people more. We’re okay. May have had the virus – temperature, loss of taste, sore throat though not much of a cough. On the mend now though. Trying to garden, write (though focus is tough!) Exercise every day. We’re not getting on each others nerves which is great. In fact we’re getting on really well. What we’ll be like if this goes on for weeks and weeks… Stay safe x


      2. I hope things are still calm and friendly in your home – particularly since it looks as if this lockdown will continue through May and June x


      3. Hi Jane. Yeah, fine here. Tbh we stay out of reach others way during the day, come together in the evenings. The only way to stay sane! How are you all doing – you finding lock down okay?


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