Where is that golden distance?

Nelly Ptaschkina
Photo: British Library

Russian diarist Nelly Ptaschkina was fourteen when the October Revolution of 1917 took place. Throughout the experience, until her untimely death in 1920, she kept a diary that filled five notebooks and chronicled her family’s journey from Moscow to Kiev to Paris, eventually driven from their home country by the Bolshevists. Nelly’s life was tragically cut short in 1920, when she fell from a great height into the waters of the Cascade du Dard. Her mother later published her daughter’s diary in her memory.

February 18

A passionate joy comes over me when I look into the distance; there, beyond the houses, the towns, the people, all is radiant, all is full of sunshine. Then it dawns upon me that my life will be different from that of the others… bright, interesting.

I feel so happy then. If only it could come more quickly—it is still so far away.

But I am able also to look at things differently and then my gaze shifts downwards, sees more clearly, rests upon a strange picture.

Then I see young girls, such as I shall become in three or four years’ time. They live, like every one else from day to day, waiting for something. They live drab, dull lives. Probably they too had visions of a bright, happy future, and gazed into the golden distance. But now…. Where is that golden distance? Did they not reach it? Can one ever reach it? Does it exist really, or only in our dreams?

For, surely, I am not the only dreamer. Are they not dreamers too? Shall I live on as they do, following the pattern woven by routine on the canvas of life? Waiting for someone?

All children and adolescents probably think thus about their future life, it beckons to them, it holds out alluring arms. But, as time passes, the dreams fade away, one is content with the present; and not merely content, but quite happy, once the dreams have vanished.

Further Reading

Nelly’s diary was published in 1923, translated by Pauline de Chary. It is now in the public domain and can be read online at the Internet Archive. Some entries can also be found in the excellent anthology, Revelations: Diaries of Women, edited by Mary Jane Moffat & Charlotte Painter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *