15 Декабрь 2014| Shelyakhovskaya (Gruzdeva) Maria Aleksandrovna

Correspondence. December 1941

1941, 9 December. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma] № 24.

I’ll try to outline briefly, as far as it is possible, my present life. In recent days we’ve been participating in severe fights. Our success has been variable. We beat the Germans some time ago, then now they are beating us. We perform long marches. I walk 40-50 km [25-30 miles] with a sack (it’s all our [soldier’s] household) behind my shoulders. We spend nights mostly “in a new place”. Sometimes it’s cold, but if we’re spending the night in zemlyankas, then we are able to make them warm As for water, we melt it from snow. We do not wash daily (I try to wash every day). We sleep when there is a chance.  In the past three days and nights I haven’t slept at all. It is hard. Yesterday after three sleepless nights I ran (it was very necessary) 10 kilometers in 30 minutes. I’m feeling well, as before. We feed unlike Leningraders. We always have enough food. One thing is hard: little food for intellect, little activity for it.

It’s good that you are enduring separation firmly. Be steadfast and ready for everything. Here, as you understand, there are many possibilities for life and death.

1941, 11 December. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma] № 25.

I haven’t received letters from you for about a month. Now it’s 3 a.m. I’m on duty. Holding the receiver to my ear: they are ringing a phone number for me, and I’m writing a letter to you.

I am in good health, as before; only my eyesight seems to be getting spoilt. […] There are not any windows in the blindages, while there should be light around the clock and it has to be economized.

During the war I have gotten to know much, I have gotten to understand much, I have comprehended many bitter truths, but it is difficult to share this baggage with anybody. I may talk about everything with you alone, as you are the same as myself. In the process of writing my letter to you I’ve heard about our troops’ taking Tikhvin. I’m terribly glad. It is a great help to Leningrad, a help to the whole country, but annihilating 7000 Germans is only an insignificant portion of revenge for all the acts of atrocity by the fascist brutes. There are victories in the South, a victory at the outskirts of Tikhvin, how much I would like to have victory at the outskirts of Leningrad.

Here in Dad’s letters the word “revenge” appears for the first time. For those who knew him in peacetime there is no doubt that aspiration for revenge was never his character trait. After the Victory he did not like to recall the War, talked about it rarely, and almost never talked about its brutal episodes.

About how he himself felt the absurdity of war Dad recalled without any enmity, just with a sad smile. In the first winter of the War, which was exceptionally cold, he caught a chill and fell ill with acute tonsillitis. He continued to fulfill his duties with a sore throat and high temperature; he was feeling so bad that he did not even try to shelter himself from bullets when he had to cross an open place, and then the following thought came upon him: “What a monstrous nonsense this war is. If you fall ill in normal life—you lie in a warm bed, everybody cares for you, they give you tea with raspberry jam. And here: not only are you feeling so bad —they are shooting at you on top of it all!”

1941, 14 December. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma] № 26.

My darling. Your letters of 28 Oct, 8 and 12 Nov, which I considered lost—I’ve received them, and therefore today is a festival for me. By the way, it seems it’s time to send you New Year’s greetings. I wish three things:

1. That we finish the War with Hitler with complete defeat for him.

2. That you and Natashenka be healthy.

3. That we meet after the victorious War. For now I don’t desire anything more.

1941, 16 December. [from S. I. Gruzdeva to A. I. Gruzdev at the front] 4 a.m.

I’m sitting with sick children. It’s been more than two days and two nights that Valya and I have not left them alone for a minute. One of the girls has acute tonsillitis, the others have flu. But we calmly hope to get them all well and not to let complications set in, and that’s why we sit with them night and day, bundling them up and giving them drinks. I remember how you carried Natasha at night to let me get some sleep.

With your thought that if there is little good, if there are few light-filled moments, it is needful to organize them, I absolutely agree. If one sits down and frets over something that is absent, this something will never come by itself. This includes even true strong love. What differentiates a human being from an animal—reason and will—should be present everywhere, including joy, love, happiness.

1941, 16 December. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma, unnumbered]

Write more about Natasha. Every word about her is dear to me.

1941, 17 December. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma] № 28.

Our troops are undertaking a serious offensive. I probably, dear, will write less, but don’t you worry and don’t reduce the amount of letters you write.

1941, 21 December [?]. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma, without a number, the beginning of the letter is not extant]

Your and my union is indissoluble. It is impossible to deceive a person who trusts you limitlessly. Be at peace and await a reunion with me. I believe in this reunion. And if it does not take place, don’t fret and don’t grieve.

Read Pushkin “In the day of sorrow, be humble; believe: the day of joy will come”

Natashenka, keep asking Mama to teach you to read and write, and write me letters. You are a big girl already, in your fifth year. In two years you will go to school and read interesting books yourself. And Dad will buy a bicycle for you, and we will ride the bicycle and the scooter together.

1941, 22 December. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma] № 31.

Here is our correspondence becoming regularized, darling Sonechka. The day before yesterday I got a letter from you, written by you 4 Dec ‘41. It was such a short time ago!

Now you can feel free to write letters to me often. I can do the same, as we have worked pretty well towards liberating the road between you and me. In the past four days we have liberated a number of villages from the Germans and have driven them far away from the railroad. Now I won’t write you what the villages where the Hitlerites played the master and from where they fled look like. I only would like to say that the village in which we are now staying for the next twenty-four hours is literally a cemetery of German equipment.

It is very good that you are living there. How good it is you will get to know later, after the War: now is not a proper time to talk about it.

Ivan Gasparovich is alive and in good health. At the end of the past month and at the beginning of this one, so I am told, he sometimes did not come home from work for three days.

1941, 24 December. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma] № 32.

The village where we are staying was retaken by us from the Germans two or three days ago. Up to now the burnt houses are still smoldering and producing a fetid stench. There aren’t any inhabitants in the village, although about a month ago, when the village was seized, all the residents were at home. The Germans fell back in great haste: everywhere around there are their corpses, helmets, cape-tents, bicycles, guns, cartridges, etc.

From Leningrad, as it is known to me, many are being evacuated. There will be nobody to write to, and I won’t know Leningrad news.

We are, Sonya, after all, comparatively happy. Now there are so many families that have been lost.

1941, 31 December. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma] № 34.

Happy New Year, my darling Sonechka, Happy New Year, my little Natashenka. I wish you to live through one more hard year and to hope that we will celebrate the next New Year together. And today we are meeting the New Year under the fire of mortars, machine-guns and other “delights”. I feel I want victory so much, I feel I want to be with you so much!

We cannot celebrate our New Year here physically. Everything goes on as always. I would like to receive a letter from you, but the mail does not keep pace with us, and I haven’t had letters for more than a week. Everything I write you does not have proper sequencing. It is caused by a number of reasons: It’s dark, crowded, rather cold, I’m tired and I write in snatches.

I feel I want to listen to at least a little good music, singing, good poetry, to read a good book [the letter is not finished and cuts off here]


© Translation into English and endnotes by Christina Petrides (USA)
and Maria Shelyakhovskaya (Russia).


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