CRY, MY HEART, CRY!
Foreword Page 2 Page 4 Page 5 Home
* * *
11. I was hiking all the time. I was always hungry, but I tried not to notice. The fascists were close already. There were rumors that bandit-collaborators had throw down from the cliffs both natives and those evacuated. I headed to Krasnodar. On one of the roads some Cossack women, who were carrying vegetables to the market, gave me a lift. None of them could know how I longed for a tomato, a cucumber or a piece of bread. The worst was yet ahead. A patrol stopped the vehicle and asked us for IDs. "Your ID," said a man a bit older that I. I gave it to him.
* * *
I was hiking all the time. I was always hungry, but I tried not to notice. The fascists were close already. There were rumors that bandit-collaborators had throw down from the cliffs both natives and those evacuated.
I headed to Krasnodar. On one of the roads some Cossack women, who were carrying vegetables to the market, gave me a lift. None of them could know how I longed for a tomato, a cucumber or a piece of bread. The worst was yet ahead. A patrol stopped the vehicle and asked us for IDs.
"Your ID," said a man a bit older that I. I gave it to him.
* * *
I recall the faces of my friends at Saratov as I departed from the railway station. I will remember them for the rest of my days. The train was carrying me towards the war. Many more loses would be held within this short dash between the years 1941-1945.
* * *
* * *
Everything is in good standing. High officers seemed to be unreachable in the sense of personal contacts with them. Sergeants are the toughest commanders. Loud military commands complemented by four-letter words are heard all the time. Life is as simple as ABC. A lot of goose-stepping. A lot of very hard work.
As a Miser awaits another Taler, Don Juan a new mistress, a sick man his doctor — a soldier waits for the night. What a paradise a good sleep is! But this never happens. A good sleep is desired by a soldier twice as much as even food.
We had just gone to bed. Then followed the next minute a sharp commander's yelling "Get up!" This struck us as lightning from top to toe. The pain from his nasty voice spread throughout the whole body. And we were not supposed just to wake up; we must do it with the speed of a rocket. "Line up! Turn right! Go!" the officer fumed. We rushed from the warmth of the barracks into the autumn cold, dirt, darkness, and rain. The shell-like command sounds not only deprived us of our individuality, but derogated us to such a degree that we begin questioning whether we were human beings or beasts. Nevertheless, our legs would follow the commands.
Up to the mines we ran, where heavy, dirty, wet, large stones were spread around. Should they force us to move them? This time the officer's iron voice would bark:
All the way back! To the barracks!There is no need for him to add "Faster!" The barracks seem to draw like a huge magnet. No slowness. Faster. Faster. Faster. Without a wiping-off command. Beds look like the Promised Land. Sleeping. Who can judge better than a soldier the sweet moment when a head touches a pillow? Less than a second passes before you are asleep.
And again, out of the blue, the night is cracked in two, you dive into the abyss, the sounds following you.
Wake up!Everything is repeated from the beginning. The squad works like a machine.
Forward! Run! Faster! Faster!Again the same run from the barracks to the "stone garden" and back to the barracks. What a pleasure those beds are! Sleeping! This time one man didn't want to look like a beast, and our bravest began to show signs of irritation: Why? What for? What does he want?
* * *
Cry, soldier, cry! There were too much pain and blood. Maybe a teardrop didn't cost a lot or shamed anyone in the face of the blood and suffering we were meeting at that time.
* * *
We were waiting to be sent to the front line. Everyday routine, starving, lack of freedom, the wish to be in a real battle and to take our chances — all that, impelled by an urge to fight for the motherland at its hour of need, called us to the trenches.
That day came. It was frenzied and curious, with chaos, yelling, whispers, bravery and disappointments, military commands, enrolment list checks. Suddenly an absolutely unexpected and unbelievable question was heard:
Who has a high school diploma?One soldier after another was called up front. Finally I hear my last name.
Libov!That was the first step on a road to designation as an under-officer. According to Stalin's ruling, everyone with a high school diploma should be enrolled in Infantry Officer School. I became an Infantry cadet at Orel Military Academy.
* * *
We became so close to Captain Ruzhinski that he seemed unable to do anything without me. I played my role fervently and, just as Lion Feihtvanger's Zuss influenced the Count, I influenced my captain. At the same time, I never crossed the borders, and had no other awards; instead, I was assigned the most difficult, routine chores.
However, I was elected chief political leader of the squad, and soon won the all-Academy competitions, and with that the highest award. The article citing my achievement appeared in the Orel Infantry Academy News, together with sketches of the squad commander and me. They tried to
* * *