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Vasily Shukshin: How many lives destroyed


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war


Vasily Shukshin
From A Matchmaking
Translated by Robert Daglish

It was on May 9th. Victory Day. As usual on that day the whole village gathered at the cemetery, in memory of those who had been killed in the war. Someone from the village Soviet stood on a stool with a list and read out the names:

Grebtsov, Nikolai Mitrofanovich. Gulyayev, Ilya Vasilyevich. Glukhov, Vasily Yemelyanovich, Glukhov, Stepan Yemelyanovich, Glukhov, Pavel Yemelyanovich….

Those three were Yemelyan Glukhov’s sons. Always, when his sons’ names were read out, the old man felt the cruel fingers of grief clutching at his throat and found it hard to breathe….He would stare at the ground without weeping, and yet see nothing. He would go on standing there and the man from the Soviet would go on reading name after name….

People wept quietly at the cemetery. Into the corners of shawls, into their hands, sighing under their breath, as if afraid to disturb and insult the silence that belonged to these solemn minutes. When the old man felt a little relief he would look around. And always he would think the same thing, “How many lives destroyed.”

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