Home > Uncategorized > Alexander Chakovsky: The war, the darkness and the cold. “And then everything will come back?”

Alexander Chakovsky: The war, the darkness and the cold. “And then everything will come back?”

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

Russian writers on war

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Alexander Chakovsky
From The Light of a Distant Star
Translated by Olga Shartse

If they had met in peacetime under a clear, sunny sky or in a gay, brightly lighted room, who knows, perhaps they would have passed each other by unnoticed. Even if they had felt a mutual attraction their love would have developed slowly and it would have taken them a long time to realise that it really was love…

But they met in those tragic days when war was breaking up and scattering families, driving people out of their homes and putting out the lights in the windows, when Death was taking its toll of millions of lives, when the laws of war with which the younger generation was unfamiliar stepped in and the canons of peacetime life became null and void.

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The clouds had covered the moon completely, making the darkness impenetrable. Probably it would rain soon. The sound of the surf and the whistling wind brought back that night, that terrible night when he had stood squashed by the crowd storming the pier which was barely discernible in the darkness and where a ship had already berthed. That was on October 17, 1941….

He begged her to sleep, to doze for a little while at least, to rest her head on his shoulder or in his lap. He promised he would not stir while she slept. Or if she liked she could make herself comfortable on the bench and he’d sit on his haversack at her feet on the ground. But she said no, no, she couldn’t sleep on such a night.

“What will happen now?” she asked him. “Vladimir, what will happen now?”

And he answered her in the very words one heard so often in those days, weeks and months,

“All this is only temporary. Soon a decision will be taken…reserves will come in…and then….”

Olga said nothing. She also believed that that was how it would be.

“And then everything will come back?” she asked after a pause.

“Everything will come back, everything! Vladimir cried and stopped short; his voice sounded too loud, too jubilant for that troubled night.

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He was too young to know that the first symptom of real love is the desire to make oneself responsible for another’s fate, and to take on the responsibility gladly because it is not a burden but happiness.

And though he did not know yet that it was love, Vladimir was already prepared to do anything, whatever it cost him, just so she wouldn’t feel cold, so the raindrops would not fall on her face, so she would smile and not feel afraid anymore.

But he was powerless. All he could do was brush away the raindrops from her face with the palm of his hand, keep the collar of her thin, flimsy coat upturned, and whisper brokenly into her ear that it would soon be over – the war, the darkness and the cold. That the milling crowd with all those suitcases, bags and bundles would soon disperse, and people would again become ordinary citizens, the kind one met in the street every hour of the day, calmly going about their business, and then returning home, switching on the lights and turning on the radio. And that everything would be the way it had always been in ordinary life.

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