The story of Masha and the Porridge of Nemyata
How goose onion helped grandma to survive
The students of a Saint-Petersburg high school with a concentration on biology chose different destinations for their April holidays. Masha's deskmate flew to Turkey with his parents, A-grade student Sonya to the Crimea, while Masha herself was sent to her grandmother in the village of Pershlakhta.

"Where is that?" her classmates wondered.

"In Kenozero area, that's where it is. Arkhangelsk Province, Northern Russia. There is still snow there...," replied Masha.

Not much snow, though, for Masha must have taken spring with her to Kenozero. The sun began to get hot on the day following her arrival. The snow disappeared instantly, exposing clearances and the green sprouts poking out from under them.

Masha's grandmother Anna is a kind-hearted woman. She adores her granddaughter and enjoys pampering her with pancakes, pies, and baked milk – the frothy milk with aromatic taste that Masha seems to never get enough of. And yet, it's a bit boring for her to be in the hut with her grandmother all day. She has been to the vegetable garden and the chicken coop and the barn and now she is looking in the direction of the river and the lake.

"Don't go far, dear," the grandma tells her. "Stay away from water."

It is on the shore that Masha comes across the yellow flowers. They look somewhat like lilies, only smaller and shrub-like, with two sharp leaves sticking out of each stalk.

Masha is curious. She pulls out one by the root to discover two bulbs hanging on it, one larger than the other. Interestingly, there is a third bulb inside (Masha is curious enough to take a closer look). "You must be a daughter bulb," she figures out after noticing how one bulb seemed to embrace the other. "A natural protective mechanism!" Masha guessed again. Smells like garlic. Well, that's fine.

Masha decides to give the plant to her grandmother as a gift and carries it to the hut.

But, on seeing it, her grandma flung up her hands and got upset for some reason.

"Masha, you got me a goose onion!"

"Why is it called goose onion?" asks Masha.

"My mother – your great-grandmother – told me that it got its name from geese. They feed on it while having rest on Kenozero Lake on their way to southern countries. It's a beautiful plant and nutritious, too."

"How do you know?" Masha asked.

"When I was your age, Masha, we kept it in the house not for decoration but for food. My mother would gather it by the waterside for us kids to add it to bread and porridge."

"Can you cook goose onion porridge for me, please?"

Grandma Anna suddenly became strict and firmly said "no".

In the evening before going to bed, Masha took the Red Book she had brought from the city. Much to her regret, goose onion was in it. She turned out to have disturbed a rare red book plant without knowing. Good that the root remained intact. The book said the Latin name for goose onion was Gagea, after the British botanist Thomas Gage.

"I should bring it back and re-plant. Grandma… I'll talk to her. She finds goose onion tasty. Unthinkable. Maybe Gagea had to be included in the Red Book because people used for food it!" Masha thought to herself.

…In the meantime, Grandma Anna was sleeping quietly on the stove. In her dream, she saw the post-war Pershlakhta, its starving people, the "killed in action" notice she had found in the chest of drawers (a curious girl she was), the faded face of her mother, her five brothers and three sisters sitting on the benches at the table. There is a smell of porridge as her mother puts a huge pot on the table. There is only the name of porridge, though, for it there's only little grain in it under the topping of goose onions. Tears are running down her mother's face as the children eat, their spoons clattering loudly on the bowls.

"It's such a pity I don't have anything I could show to Masha that belonged to my mom. Not even a photo of her…" Anna got upset in her sleep.