Yushka (Platonov)

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Summary of the Short Story

The division of the retelling into chapters is conditional.

Yushka's Life

Yefim, nicknamed Yushka, had worked in the forge of a small town so long ago that the locals used to set their watches by him: the adults, seeing him go to work, would wake the young ones, and when he came home, they would say that it was time for dinner and bed.

Yushka (Yefim Dmitrievich) — Assistant chief blacksmith, 40 years old, suffering from tuberculosis, which makes him look like an old gray-haired man, short, weak, blind, shy, patient, unresponsive.

Yushka lived in the kitchen of the blacksmith's master, working from early morning until late at night - carrying sand, water and coal to the forge, fanning the fire with his fur. He was fed for his work and paid a small wage. Yushka did not spend the money he earned, drank empty water instead of tea and sugar, and wore the same clothes for many years.

Very often the children hurt Yushka, beat him, threw stones, sand, and earth at him, but he tolerated everything, did not take offense and was not angry at them. Sometimes the children tried to make Yushka angry so that he, like other adults, chased them with a whip and cheered them up, but they did not succeed. Yushka silently went about his business, did not defend himself, and sometimes the children even doubted that he was alive.

The adults took it out on Yushka when they were drunk or offended, but he meekly endured and kept silent.

...the grown-ups would be convinced that Yushka was to blame for everything and... beat him. The meekness of Yushka makes the grown-up man become bitter and beat him more than he wanted to at first, and in this anger he forgets his sorrow for a time.

After the beating, Yushka lay in the dust on the road for a long time. Sometimes the daughter of the blacksmith master came, picked up Yushka, took him home, and said to him, "I wish you were dead, Yushka... Why do you live?" Yushka answered that he could not die, because people love him, but love him "without a clue", because "the heart in people can be blind."

Yushka's Death

Every summer, Yushka would leave town for a month. No one knew where exactly, and Yushka would not admit it, naming different places. People thought that he was visiting his beloved daughter, who was just like him, simple and needless. On the way Yushka rested, breathed the clean air, admired the white clouds, the forest, bugs and butterflies, smelled the flowers, and for a time tuberculosis stopped tormenting him.

Every year his illness made Yushka grow weaker and weaker. One summer, instead of going out, Yushka stayed home.

That evening, as usual, he was returning from the forge and met a passerby who called Yushka "God's scarecrow" and said that without him the world would be happier. For the first time Yushka did not silently endure mockery, but replied, "I was made to live by my parents, I was born by law, all the world needs me, just like you, so without me, too, it is impossible...!" The pedestrian did not like the fact that Yushka compared him to himself, the wretch. He pushed Yushka hard in his sore chest, and he fell down and never got up again.

A passing carpenter found Yushka and realized that he was dead - bleeding from his mouth.

- He is dead," sighed the carpenter. - Goodbye, Yushka, and forgive us all. People have rejected you, and who is your judge!

The blacksmith master buried Yushka. All the neighbors from his street came to the funeral, even those who had offended him. Now they had no one to vent their anger on, and people began to argue more often.

"Good Yushka's Daughter"

One day a strange girl appeared in town and began looking for Yefim Dmitrievich. Not immediately the master smith remembered that that was Yushka's name.

Girl — orphan, Yushka's ward, young, frail and pale, loves Yushka, unselfish.

At first everyone thought the girl was Yushka's daughter, but she turned out to be an orphan. Yushka took care of her, placed her first in a Moscow family, then in a boarding school with training. Every summer he went to see the girl and gave her all the money he earned.

Knowing of Yushka's illness, the girl trained as a doctor and wanted to cure "the one who loved her more than anything in the world and whom she herself loved with all the warmth and light of her heart." She did not know that Yushka had died - he simply had not come to see her, and the girl went looking for him. The blacksmith led her to the cemetery.

There the girl fell to the ground, in which lay the dead Yushka, the man who had fed her since childhood, who had never had sugar for her to eat.

The girl stayed to work in town, helping people selflessly until her old age. Everyone called her "the daughter of the good Yushka," no longer remembering who Yushka was, and that she was not his daughter.

The retelling is based on edition of the story from Platonov's collected works (M.: Vremya, 2011).