20 Октябрь 2014| Shelyakhovskaya (Gruzdeva) Maria Aleksandrovna

From the Gruzdevs’ Archive

Alexander Gruzdev, 1941.

Alexander Gruzdev, 1941.

1941, 4 August. [to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma from Ivan Gasparovich]

[Author’s note: This letter was written in Russian by an ethnical Lithuanian, an old man who did not have education in Russian; the translators tried to render the style of the original]

Dear Sonechka and darling Natasha I very much thank you for the telegrams. Glory and honor to you and Natasha that the fortune helped you to get to respected Valentina Stepanovna.

Dear Sonechka here we don’t have anything urgent, everything is as before. The sheds are all in their places up till now.

Take care of your health I am very glad that dear Natasha is with you this is more valuable than me.

Then Valentina Stepanovna I beg you so much do take care of Sonechka and dear Natasha. Now there is no Mama And Sonechka has gotten into the groove of life. Life does not fondle her so far. On this basis I dared to beg You. Of course your life is not easy either. But most important there where you are it is quiet for the time being. Soon this scoundrel will be driven away by our valiant Red Army.

And here Natasha when you left then the cat Vasilissa up to this day cannot calm down, she walks around the room and looks for you. But she cannot find you she does not eat anything. And even if she likes something she just has a lick at it and cries again. But she begins to calm down already she ate a little porridge today. And now she has moved to my bed Natasha be good listen to Mama and Valentina Stepanovna. And I’ll try to soothe Vasilissa and to keep her safe till you come back. And now good-bye I Kiss you.

From Granddad.

Sorry for writing badly.

The phrase “The sheds are all in their places up till now” means a great deal: it means that in early August Leningraders still hoped that they wouldn’t have to break up the sheds for firewood. Everybody thought the War wouldn’t be long.

1941, 6 August. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma]

I haven’t received a letter from you yet, but I’ve received a telegram. In Leningrad, although I haven’t been there since your departure, everything is as before: the fascists are not flying as far as to the city, and probably won’t fly as far. In my situation everything is as before. I shoot all day long, at a shooting-range as yet. Today I shot 5 different weapons.

I even cannot even think out what wishes I can send you and Natasha. Bring up Natasha to be an honest and serious person, teach her.

My memory recalls the dacha and our family. Oh yes, it was a good time.

If we survive, we’ll live more joyously and unconstrainedly.

1941, 10 August. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma]

The day before yesterday I was in Leningrad. Ivan Gasparovich has tidied everything, washed up everything and is keeping vigorous and in good spirits. It was only sad to me to come home when there is neither you, my wee girl, nor Natasha.

As for me, everything is as before. We’ve come out to the front zone. I’m in the rear for the time being, but tonight we are going to that place again. We’ll participate in the War in a practical way. Everyone’s mood is most vigorous and good. We are armed rather well. We’ll sturdily defend our country, our beautiful city, our families, our kindred and our friends. Bring up Natasha in the serious and strict path of love for labor. Teach her to be firm and honest. Appeal to her reason and her feelings more often with a kind word, quietly and with love.

In Leningrad everything is as before. Almost nothing has changed. And it makes one very glad, because this War is exceptionally serious and it demands all-out effort.

In August, battles at the approaches to Leningrad were expanded in all directions.

Dad told us that in our soldiers there was no hatred towards the enemy at first—it appeared later, when they saw corpses of our girls—and not just corpses, but traces of savagely cruel victimization on the girls. (It is not possible at all, he said, to get used to the violent death of women, the violent death of male soldiers seemed a more usual attribute of war.)

1941, 12 August. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma]

My dear ones, my precious darlings. The letters I have written you have been very laconic.

It is somehow very difficult to be even and placid when writing to you from this situation. I write to you comparatively often, and every letter you get from me should be seen as an “everything’s all right.” I am living well for the time being. As for all the hardships connected with the transition to war life, I endure them very easily. I’ve enough physical strength, I’ve skills as well—in a word, there are all the necessary conditions for successful actions against the Germans.

Yesterday and today I have had absolutely free days. I went to a greenhouse and brought a big bunch of flowers from there. Nobody is interested in them now, but I began to love them passionately, it seems because Natasha loves them. I have walked with them all day, and on account of this, the whole day my heart has been together with my little daughter.

It is good, Sonechka, that you left. Live there until we come back home with victory.

Morals change in wartime, but I am faithful to the principle that I set long ago. To you I’ll say: while I am alive, think well about me. In an unfavorable case—remember what I told you.

I want you to live the rest of the days of your youth normally, joyously, and without overstrain. All this can be done.

And how well you acted when you retrieved Natasha, although you acted seemingly in defiance of common sense.

What happened to those children with whom Natasha had been evacuated to Valdai? The kindergarten was moved from one place to another, and for a long time the children’s parents did not know anything about their fate, and only several months later they heard that the children were in a safe place—in the Urals. Unfortunately, the teachers could not manage to keep all the children alive.

1941, 14 August. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma]

In a few days we’ll be participants of the real big War. I beg you with all my heart, my good, darling wee girl, not to grieve to no purpose, as lack of vigor and light view of life would only torment you and won’t do any good to you, nor to me, nor to our little daughter. Melancholy and dejection are of no help now. One should keep a tight hold upon oneself and be ready for everything. The main point now, Sonechka, is not at all in whether a person would perish 5 or 10 years earlier or later, but in saving the country from the invasion of bloody Huns. Victory cannot be achieved without sacrifices. To desire a victory is to make sacrifices.

People are fighting and perishing in thousands. It’s impossible to do without it. One should remember that the War, however brutal it might be, has its end, and that after it, the light and joyful life of work will come again.

Old lady History is quietly doing her part, her pace is awkward and sometimes heavy, but her forces are working in our favor, against the Hitlerite beasts.

Do live calmly, my darlings. In you I found great happiness.

With my heart I am always together with you, my dearest ones, and let my flaming love for you protect you from all kinds of disasters and misfortunes in our severe time. Live and work, Sonya, peacefully and honestly; if necessary—evacuate even farther, but bring up our daughter in the same spirit of honesty and frankness that we ourselves have followed in our life.

These days I have been traveling by car by a number of places where we recently used to be together, and again I experienced those feelings that made up our life such a short time ago.

I have been more than once in Gatchina, and Duderhof, and Pushkin[1], and in all these places there is ground for memories.

One of these days I’ll be in those areas where you went in summers together with your Mama. As for these places, it is three times more pleasant for me to defend them, my dearest.

1941, 23 August. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma]

Tell Natasha that her Dad is fighting well. There is no cowardice in me, though I’m careful where necessary. Where there is a sort of more serious business, it’s me who goes and discharges it successfully. I was fired upon several times, but the bullet for me hasn’t been cast yet.

The other day I passed, safe and sound, under the hurricane fire of four tanks and safely led out forty soldiers whom I had found in the forest.

In free time, much could be recounted about war episodes, but let’s postpone it till we meet.

Read newspapers—there are good, truthfully-written feature stories.

Bring up Natasha and, at the same time, work.

You should certainly go out to work, otherwise what kind of life would it be!

Tell Natasha her Dad for 3 weeks hasn’t taken off his clothes a single time and sleeps with his clothes on, constantly having a rifle in his hands. And if, beyond expectation, something happens, keep telling her that her father was an honest man. In my life I have never deceived anybody, never regarded my own interests as of paramount importance, I have loved people, valued the human being in everyone, have not liked idlers and most of all flatterers.

To Natashenka, when I come, I’ll bring a big bunch of flowers as a gift.

1941, 26 August. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma]

Sonechka, two letters from you, dated 9 Aug and 12 Aug. Needless to say how glad I am thanks to them.

It wasn’t good of you not to take a winter overcoat. Is it possible to get it from Ivan Gasparovich somehow? It seems our soldiers and officers receive parcels. If they accept parcels from you, then I’d ask for a little one. Send me [the end of the letter is not extant]

1941, 29 August. [from A. I. Gruzdev to S. I. Gruzdeva in Totma]

I wish you worked at a school. However, you see your situation better from there.

I asked you to send me a parcel and I listed a knife among the things I needed. I’ve already bought a knife. If you can, send me mittens. All the rest I have in plenty. We are replete with food—more than necessary.

My position, in which I still remain, requires a lot of action and responsibility, but it is very good due to the fact that I have some free time, that I am subordinate only to the highest command, and most of the day I am self-directed. In a word, I spend whole days traveling. There is an automobile at my command, and I make 150 – 200 km a day in it.

So, I experience almost no hardships of field life. But traveling along the front line is connected with some unexpectednesses, although they don’t happen often.

Everything would be good if we beat the Germans better and more strongly, and drove them from our territory, but, as you see from the newspapers, we aren’t managing to do it so far.


[1] Gatchina, Duderhof and Pushkin are small beautiful towns near Leningrad. Pushkin, formerly called Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar’s Village), later Detskoye Selo (Children’s Village) was in 1937 renamed after the famous poet A. Pushkin, who in 1811 – 1817 studied there at the Lyceum.


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

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