The Soupster encounters a mysterious, loving couple.
By Nan Metashvili
Jingling coins in his pocket, with a rose in his heart, the Soupster strolled along Lincoln St., rubbernecking appreciatively.
“Flâneuring in your own town!” he mused, and the friendly smile on his face caused a passing couple to smile back at him.
They all stopped, right there, to exchange names and chat. Maria and Marko were visiting Sitka for the first time and wanted to experience something other than the usual tourist things.
The Soupster agreed, and so to tune in to local life, he suggested they sit on the wall for a while.
“Come summer, these streets will be thronged with people from all corners of the world. The scent of Sitka roses will tickle your nostrils. Halibut cheeks and life-saving chocolate milkshakes will sell like hotcakes. High spirits’ll roll out of the P. Bar like a flock of seagulls gobbling herring eggs in the spring. But in February – ah, February – it’s dark, cold and rainy. Today’s sunshine is not normal.”
Just then, to prove his point, a pouting cloud obscured that improbable sun, so they rose and meandered on.
They admired the Pioneer Home’s grace. When notes of a lively Slavic kolo drifted from Raven Radio, Marko danced a few steps. “Music from my homeland,” he marvelled. His wife placed a loving, ebony-hued hand on his arm, and they danced together along the sidewalk. Their Serbian/Brazilian moves were sensual and heart-warming. “Not bad for octogenarians,” thought the Soupster.
Nearing the ANB Hall, they saw posters announcing festivities for Elizabeth Peratrovich Day.
“Who?” gulped Marko.
“Oh, our famous Alaskan activist. Elizabeth Peratrovich. Ḵaax̲gal.aat. A lionhearted Tlingit woman who refused to accept discrimination and injustice. Who worked and persevered, and in 1945 got an anti-discrimination bill passed in the Alaska territory, long before the rest of the country. Racial hatred and Jim Crow practices had plagued this land, and she bravely stood up for what is right.
“Why,” he chuckled, “you know what she said when the white guy senators referred to natives as ‘savages’? She took ‘em right down.
She said, ‘I would not have expected that I, who am “barely out of savagery” would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.’”
The trio reflected on the vagaries of human behaviour. Love should be able to conquer all, but sometimes people need to be reminded. To be reminded that hate should have no place in the constitution. As an inter-racial couple, Maria and Marko had faced their share of obstacles. As they rested, admiring the posters, Marko was suddenly weeping.
“From my own war-torn, tumultuous country to this chilly, beautiful land of eagles and ravens, home to this culture, this brave woman…”
He fell silent and the screams of eagles seemed to continue his story.
“My mother. Her maiden name was Peratrovich,” he finally concluded in a whisper.
The Soupster stood there with his hands in his pockets. He no longer jingled the coins. Instead, he withdrew them, and placed them in Marko’s hands.
Shining golden Elizabeth Peratrovitch dollars.