As the winter of 2011 approached, the people grew restless. The fish were gone, fuel was scarce and the muffin lines were growing longer.
Tribes from the north had come on their tractors and snowmachines to slaughter all the reindeer. Country folk, barely able to feed themselves, were forced to trudge hundreds of miles to the fringes of the capital city.
But in Dennisgrad, food and shelter were scarce, too. Migrants lived in gypsum shacks on the barrens of Kenmount Hill. They scraped together what means they had to survive — moose, rabbit and occasionally, a scavenged bottle of strawberry syrup.
The Dumarskovitch family was different. They had it good. Their larders were always full, thanks to the largesse of Uncle Vanya.
Vanya Dumarskovitch lived on a small estate in the Steppes to the south. There, he grew plenty of potatoes and cabbage, and corn for the cattle.
One cold October morning, Anna and her sisters heard that Uncle Vanya was coming to visit. He would arrive the next day. Excitedly, the sisters washed out their favourite corsets and scarves in anticipation.
“Oh, dear Uncle Vanya,” cried Anna the next morning, as her balding relative emerged from his Lada Priora. “We are so giddy with joy and euphoria that you have come to visit us. You honour us greatly with your presence.”
“I am here only on a mission, my baby babushkas,” replied Uncle Vanya. “I shan’t be here long.”
“You will not stay long? Then we will surely kill ourselves.”
“No, little Anna. This is an important mission. I am here to present a petition from our people to the great Czarina herself.”
“Katherine the Great? No, no, Uncle Vanya. You can’t present that to her. She has the palace barred up tight.”
Vanya looked surprised.
“Why has she done that?” he asked.
“Because she says democracy is a waste of time. She says debate is the pablum of the people, or something like that. But Uncle Vanya, you must stay and dine with us.”
And so they supped on borscht and latkes and breaded squid mantles.
“Uncle Vanya, you must not think so poorly of our great Katherine,” Anna said after their meal. “She has provided us with many good things. She says there will be a great dam called Muskrat Falls, and from that dam shall flow great rivers of power. It will come on pillars of marble, with brass transformers and wires crafted of the purest gold. You’ll see.”
“But the people are starving, Anna. They can’t afford such extravagance. They need simple things, like food and shelter and gambling machines. We must march on the palace and demand better treatment for all citizens.”
The next day, Vanya Dumarskovitch did march on the palace, but was turned away at the gates.
“There will be no petitions heard today,” the guard told him. “Go back to your kolkhoz, my friend, and be happy with what you have.”
And so Vanya returned to his estate, and the people suffered through the cruel winter. The countryside remained grey and dreary, and the citizens continued to drink vodka and speak in despairing tones.
The palace did finally open, in the spring of 2012. But only after the Bolsheviks, led by Comrade Lorena Mikhail, stormed the gates and sacked the royals.
For a few days, there was great rejoicing in the streets.
But the celebration would not last long.
Soon the palace gates were locked again, and citizens were left to fend for themselves.
From the security of her new palace quarters, Lorena Mikhail issued a decree.
“Comrades,” she declared, “now that power is in the hands of the proletariat, there is no need for this palace to stay open. Besides, it is dysfunctional. Go back to your homes and be glad that the oppressors have been vanquished.
“The people have spoken.”
Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.