Katya Baikina, age 9 tempera
Unknown pencil and colored pencil

Bocha was over 70 years old, and a hospital patient for the first time in his life. For a while, he considered just going to join his father, who had died in a forced labor camp years ago, but a dream of his father convinced Bocha to let the doctor perform the kidney operation he needed.

The operation was successful, and Dr. Khaid was so kind and caring that Bocha was determined to find a special gift to thank him for saving his life. No gift seemed quite right, so when Bocha heard that Dr. Khaid’s own father was a patient in the hospital, he was determined to visit him, chat with him, and show him some of the kindness that his son, the doctor, had shown Bocha.

Imagine his surprise, then, when he found Dr. Khaid’s father, and recognized him as a man he’d searched for all his life – Barznak, the man whose false testimony had sent not only Bocha’s father, but his two brothers as well, to the labor camp to die all those years ago!  Bocha had sworn revenge then – and here was his chance. But this man’s son had saved Bocha’s life. How could Bocha kill his father? How could he face his father if he let this man go free? These voices argued back and forth in his heart all day.

In the evening, he took a bread-knife from the dining hall and crept into the father’s ward. As Barznak slept fitfully, Bocha found many excuses to put off the moment of revenge. Finally, however, he forced his legs to move. He pushed open the door into the ward, then he stopped. He stood still with his back against the wall and realized that he would never be able to carry out the plan. Just when he drew the knife and started to go into the ward, a vision of the good doctor appeared to him, stopping him, forcing him to back off. 

“How do you feel?” the good doctor in the white coat sitting by his bedside was asking him. “Everything’s fine. You’ll soon be on your feet. You’ll have to put off dying till another day. Now then, let’s check your pulse.” He felt the touch of Khaid’s sensitive fingers on his arm.

This whole vision took place in a single second. The knife made a noise when he threw it on the floor, but nobody woke up. Tears ran down Bocha’s cheeks. He felt angry and helpless. He wanted to howl at the top of his voice throughout the sleeping hospital. The feeling of revenge that had driven him for decades was overcome by the power of compassion.

He could never lift a hand against the man who had saved his life. This new understanding was to be his gift to Dr. Khaid.