Chapter 3 Summary

Mr. Lev learns that Stalin has had a stroke and is dying. He warns his family, “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice.” It is difficult, however, for them not to feel that a major threat to the Jewish people has been removed. On the way home from school, Asher sees a group of six men get out of a car and go into the Ladover offices. His father does not come home that night. The next day, the radio announces that Stalin is dead. Mr. Lev comes home and says that Simcha has managed to get out of Russia and has arrived in London. When Asher asks who Simcha is, he is told simply that Simcha is a Jew from Kiev.

Mr. Lev asks Asher if he knows where Vienna, Austria, is. Asher does not even know that it is a city. He tells his father that they did not study Austria in school. Mr. Lev remarks that his son does not know geography or arithmetic. Asher attends the morning service at the synagogue as the Rebbe conducts the prayers. Reb Krinsky greets Asher, saying that he has not seen him for a week. He also says that Stalin should have died thirty years ago.

Asher sees a picture in the newspaper showing Stalin in his coffin. He cannot look away from the picture. When he goes to the stationery store, Reb Krinsky assures him that there can be no more Stalins in Russia. When he comes home, Mrs. Lev tells him that the family is moving to Vienna. Asher says that he does not want to go, but he has no choice. He becomes ill and dreams that his uncle and Reb Krinsky come to see him.

Asher goes to tell Reb Krinsky that he is moving to Vienna. Krinsky tells him that it is a beautiful city that hates Jews. This does not make Asher feel better. His uncle assures him that Mr. Lev is doing this for the good of the Torah. He will start schools for Russian Jews all over Europe, as well as be a liaison for those who are escaping the Soviet Union. Asher tells his mother that he is afraid to travel, especially flying. It makes no difference; they are moving in October. Asher dreams that the Rebbe comes out of the trees in the park, and this frightens him. At school, while the rabbi is talking, Asher draws lines and circles in his notebook. When he looks at it again, he discovers that he has drawn a picture of Stalin in his coffin.