Slava Voyko had lived through many horrors back in his former country of the Ukraine. As a former serf Slava and his parents had worked the fields night and day in endless toil and misery. They received nothing more than basic survival for working the land under their landowners. They were forbidden to own property as Galician Ukrainian serfs. For decades starvation was rampant in this area of the Ukraine as for decades 50,000 peasants died each year from starvation. But worst of all a vicious cycle had started in Galician Ukraine that would last for decades as the people could not get out of the never ending cycle of starvation and poverty that was passed down from generation to generation. Disease and malnutrition was endemic. It was so bad in the 1800s that this area of Ukrainian was considered the most wretched, poor and miserable place on earth, which coined the term, "Galician Misery."
Slava still had nightmares about the past, dreaming of contorted and twisted dead bodies frozen in the snow. But there was something that was far more sinister that existed back home. He knew there had to be mass graves somewhere under the earth. The locations of these were unknown, buried in the past.
But now he was safe in the new land, there were no hidden bones beneath the earth in Canada. Slava walked the fields and tried to envision the tall crops and the swaying grain in the gentle prairie breeze. But no matter how hard he tried to come to peace with himself in his new land he could not forget the past horror of his life in Ukraine. And no matter where he looked or how hard he tried to focus on the present his mind kept being drawn back to the past. In the fields all his mind saw were the rotting bodies that had been starved to death and when he looked the other direction all he could see were piles and piles of bones stacked high into the air, almost like an imposing giant that said to him, "You will not forget."
Slava stopped and tried to calm himself as he was shaking violently. He decided to turn back to his farmhouse and when he arrived there he would start working. He would work himself into a state of such extreme exhaustion that he would be on the verge of collapsing and be too tired to think of the past. He knew he must focus on the present to drown out the past.
When he got back to the farmhouse he grabbed a shovel and decided that he would dig his garden near the house. He surveyed the land and marked off how large he wanted the garden to be. He then started to dig like a human machine. The sweat began to pour off his face and his clothes clung to his back. The harder he shoveled the more he forgot of his former life. No more bodies or skeletons in his mind. Hard work was the path to healing. Then as he was shoveling he hit something hard in the ground. He swept back the earth with his hand for a better look and screamed.
There was a skull in his garden.