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Free Man's Mom

— Sasha is so much like you!

— This is my boy…

This is the beginning of my conversation with Bella Lapshina, the mother of Alexander Lapshin, who is a famous blogger, puerrto by username, the trial over him began the day before yesterday in Azerbaijan. We — that is me and Keren Fischon, the leader of the «Magen Mishpacha» non-governmental organization, which supports Sasha and his family from the first days of the notorious process – have visited Bella’s in her cozy apartment in Haifa this day, even not to interview her but rather not to leave her alone with her fears and pain, and to spend time with her on the day when her son starts being judged in a distant and terrible country.

Certainly, the «Magen Mishpacha» non-governmental organization could not help tackling this matter, as this organization, as it can be seen from its name, is primarily concerned with the active support of families who have found themselves in a difficult life situation. And here we are talking just about the sufferings of a repatriate family: a single mother does not know how to help her son, who is in prison in faraway Azerbaijan, a wife with a small child, unable to complete the «step» process due to the fact that the father is in captivity, had to move temporarily to Belarus… Many repatriates’ families in difficult life situations have already been helped by the «Magen Mishpacha» non-governmental organization – and here is another family, which is just more famous than others.

I am telling tell Bella that I had become Sasha’s devoted reader not only long before «everything», but also before I came to the country.

— So are you here for a short time?

— For two years.

— Quite a newcomer … And I have been here for 26 years. Nearly a third of life.

So I make a simple arithmetic operation — and I understand that I refuse to believe my ears. No, this woman can’t be this age! And the matter is not even how well-groomed and elegant she is: such glowing eyes and such a young smile can belong only to a young woman!

So, Bella has been living in Haifa for many years. She is a real Israeli, very fond of her new homeland. Her manners and speech are completely deprived of the heritage of «prehistoric» homeland which is so often encountered even here, which is sometimes stiffness, reserve and the fear of the powerful. And she managed to raise her son the same — fearless and free.

Every time I read the texts of this observant, ironic and recklessly courageous “puerrto”, I was visited by the same question: where do such people come from? How to raise such a free person? Like most Soviet and post-Soviet children, I have felt vaguely some tragic mistakes that were made in my upbringing, which did not stop me from becoming a free person, but made my way to myself difficult and indirect; sol I have always thought with admiration of those parents who managed not to cripple their children. Also I wondered: what do you need for this?

In the very first minutes of the conversation, Bella confirmed my boldest assumptions – you should do … nothing. And it’s a lot. Do not stop the child — or rather, the little person — from being yourself. In the conversation with Keren Fishzon, the leader of the Magen Mishpacha, a hot supporter of home education that raised three beautiful sons almost without the «help» of a state or other school, Bella very quickly reveals the main secret of the free man's mother: the best way to help the child is not to prevent him from growing himself.

Sasha grew and turned into the “puerrto” whom we know already in Israel: he came here with his mother when he was only 13 years old. He lived and studied in Gan-Shmuel kibbutz, then served in Israeli army: he was a military driver, which was an excellent occasion to examine and explore all the corners of the new homeland for a young perpetual traveler. Bella remembers the delight the son told her about one of Jewish kibbutzim of Gaza: he had had a chance to visit it in one of his flights even before the Jews were expelled from Gaza and before this territory turned into what it is today. «Mom, heaven on earth exists, and Jews created it in Gaza!» — Sasha who was far from being romantic could not hide his admiration ...

He grew up a true Israeli — and at the same time a citizen of the world.

— During the interrogations, he repeatedly said «I do not make any distinction between people and nations, I like all people the same way,» Mama proudly tells about her son.

Most of all, Bella is worried about her son's state of mind. All the time after his arrest, which is a few months, he spent in solitary confinement. And it could not but affect his mental health: according to Mom, who went to visit her son from Haifa to faraway Baku, all their long conversations go around in a circle; Sasha obtrusively returns to what worries him most. And the main subject of his unrest is, of course, his wife and daughter. Little Alice is only two years old, but her grandmother rarely sees her granddaughter, because Alice’s mother could not complete the «step process» because of Sasha's arrest, and did not manage to become an Israeli. Therefore, they do not live in Israel now.

Bella brought a fresh photo of Alice to Sasha — but he could not leave it in a conspicuous place, «as he says — it's too hard for him.»

At this point, Sasha’s mother begins to cry. She begins – but almost instantly takes over herself. No, this woman cannot afford to cry with strangers — no matter Keren and I told her that she can do it with us …

Bella and Katya, Sasha’s mother and wife, these courageous women who support Sasha all this time — try not to think about the verdict. We saw Bella's eyes — how terrible this thought is to her. She recalls February 7, the day of Sasha's extradition, with horror:

— It seemed to me that the floor was running out from under my feet when I saw in Youtube an excerpt from news where my son was being led from an airplane under an escort of six armed special-task force officers wearing black masks. How can this be nowadays? Why? After all, he is neither a murderer nor a terrorist! — Mom does not understand. — What is left for me? I can only pray and believe that the mind will still triumph, and my son, when this nightmare is over, will be able to restore his health (unfortunately, during his stay in prison, Alexander started running health problems, which had never happened before), and most importantly — will not break until this moment.

When it finishes… “When” — only when confronted with Lapshin's case, did we understand the terrible meaning of this word. After all, if everything ends with a conviction and a real term, it will be a doom for him.

Now Sasha and his family’s main hope is the Israeli authorities. The Israeli Minister of Justice has already promised to ensure that Alexander Lapshin serves his sentence in Israel, in case of conviction ( The «Magen Mishpacha», for its part, renders all possible assistance to the connection of Sasha's relatives with the office of Shaked. The first meeting of the court was attended by the Consul of Israel in Azerbaijan. So Sasha and his family, and all of us, have the belief that “puerrto” will be saved by the famous Jewish and Israeli mutual assistance — and that our country will not abandon its citizen, no matter in which hot spot of the world he may turn out to be.

Zoya-Hava Barzakh


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