Back to the Soldiers of House 6/1

This tiny house, at the crook of the Volga River, which is shortly to be the apex of the Russian spear into the iron-clad German forces besieging Stalingrad, has, of course, an indomitable leader. His name is Grekov, and he is quite an ordinary man, never shouts, never raises his voice, but he must be quite something if a young soldier named Seryoza Shaposhnikov, taken to Division Headquarters to make report, can’t wait to get back to that house!

There is also a very young woman named Katya, who has volunteered to be a radio operator, who is of course the object of all the soldiers’ romantic dreams, but who the indomitable leader Grekov has made clear belongs to him. Of course, this being wartime, there are long stretches of boredom between the shelling attacks. The men occupy themselves by listing which men in the house Katya likes most. At the bottom of the list is the young, inexperienced Seryoza. No one thinks a young, inexperienced woman would go for an equally inexperienced man. But of course, since this is a Russian novel, it’s Seryoza that Katya loves.

She’s hiding in the rubble of the nearly ruined house (next to the corpse of a dead cat), when she hears a voice:

“Don’t be afraid,” said the darkness. “It’s me.”

Who do you think it is?

The commander finds them asleep in each other’s arms the next morning. He spends a long time just staring at them. The boy has “his head on the girl’s shoulder and his arm round her back; it looked as though he were afraid of losing her. Their sleep was so quiet and so still they might have been dead.”

At dawn, somebody woke them up: Hey, you two! The commander wants to see you!

All this happens in Part II, Chapter 17 of Life and Fate, on the eve of the Battle of Stalingrad.


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