West Russia, World War II
One winter day at dark down the artillery opened hurricane fire on the enemy’s positions. Soon came the squadron and geysers of soil and curls of smoke erupted from the earth. The front enemy’s dugouts were razed to the ground for the first ten minutes. White rockets occurred on the sky as though they were artificial constellations. Then the infantry began to shoot in order to destroy that which had been missed by the shells.
The battle was won owing to one soldier – a slender, thin eighteen-year-old boy, named Sasha. There was an enormous machine-gun, skillfully hidden behind a stack of big stones. It starfed the whole road round a little bridge which was the only way to reach the fortification. No one was able to come closer and “dismantle” the private behind the cannon. If Sasha had not helped, enemy’s crafts would have come an hour later and would have killed all the soldiers on the battlefield.
The commanders saw him among the cracks of the rocks. Then he disappeared. A few minutes later a bomb explosion was heard and the machine-gun ceased shooting. And there were no holdbacks for invasion.
In the evening the chief commander of the companies called Sasha in his room.
“You ignored my explicit instructions!” he cried. “That was the worst and recklessest thing to do!”
The boy felt himself as the biggest traitor in the world.
“But nevermind”, continued the commander. “I’ve decided to reward you with a seen-day-furlough for being so devoted to your country.”
... later part of the Empire, faced with increasingly more proficient enemy commanders, Blucher, Wellington, Schwarzenberg, Kutuzov and Wittgenstein. Furthermore ... traditional reputation as one of history's great military commanders. Through his abilities to fuse battle with maneuver, ... not dealing explicitly with Napoleon as a military commander offers an alternative insight to his personality and ...
The boy smiled with satisfaction.
“Where do you want to go?” asked the commander.
“I’d like to visit my mother and father in Karanga.”
“OK. I’ve provided you with a lorry to Petropavlovsk and from there you’ll have to catch up the train.”
“Thank you, sir, thank you very much!”
He went into the sleeping-hall and began to gather the things he needed. Then he called in at the field hospital to say “Goodbye” to his best friend Volodya. And Volodya gave him a little purse with money and asked him to deliver it to his wife in Petropavlovsk where Sasha was expected to catch up the train.
At sunrise the next morning the young boy was already travelling with the lorry. In the cabin there were also two men – a driver and an ex-soldier – now an invalid because a shell had deprived him of his right leg. This man was going to Kurgan.
During the traveling Sasha and the invalid became friends. The ex-soldier told him that he was going back to his wife who unfortunately had been left alone to take care of the newborn baby, which he had not seen yet. And he was not even upset because of the lost leg.
They arrived in Kurgan on the second day and spent it all looking for the invalid’s wife because she had somehow disappeared. Sasha did not know what to do – he was unable to help his friend and he was afraid of this uncertainty. Thousand of questions occurred in his head – “What had happened to the invalid’s wife?”, “Had she gone somewhere else?”, “Is the baby with her and is it all right?”, “Is she still alive?”, “If not, what had happened to the baby?”… Many questions and no answers…
The next day the young boy continued his way to Petropavlovsk and reached it late in the evening. Sasha’s train to Karanga was the next morning so he decided to go to Volodya’s house and give the money to his wife.
When he reached the house he noticed that there was no light glimmering through the window and no smoke coming out of the chimney. He knocked at the door. No answer. He knocked again and again but nobody replied. He was very disappointed and remembered the invalid’s wife. Then he knocked once more. Silence…
... Visits pond. Lodges in Somerset, with "loud" landlord and wife. Day Three (morning) Taunton, Somerset: Explores market town; has tea ... morning) Salisbury: Rises early; waits for landlady to cook breakfast.Day Two (afternoon) Mortimer's Pond, Dorset: Denies working for ... (last week of March) -- The Conference begins. -- That same day, Father becomes ill.Culminating dinner, with "toasts" by Dupont, Lewis ...
When he was leaving for nowhere, as he did not know where to spend the night, he saw something terrifying at the bottom of the yard – a big grave with a cross on which had been carved the names “Natasha and Svetlana”. Sasha was speechless. Natasha was Volodya’s wife and Svetlana – his sister… He spent the cold night by the grave. He was not able to imagine how he will tell this to his best friend.
On the next day the train arrived too late in Petropavlovsk. He sat by the window and spent all the time looking plainly through it. He was too young and inexperienced and could not accept the cruel twists of fate with innocent people. He wondered about the purpose of this war, the insignificance of the ordinary man and still he could not find any answer.
When he came home he had time only to embrace his crying mother and to learn that his father had died a few days ago.
The next day his mother saw him off at the station. She was inconsolable for she knew she would never have the chance to see her only child again. The woman stayed long, long time at the station stared at the train which was receding further and further, crying and waving her black kerchief…
Sasha was a good son. He could be a good father or a good doctor. But Sasha was only a soldier… A few days later he was killed at the battlefield.