In January, 1945, Roza finally succeeded in being assigned to front-line duty.
January 14th, 1944.
Started near Lithuania and Belarus. No, our troops can’t move far; our right flank took Pillkallen yesterday, and today is hesitating again. Our left flank already pressed further. But we still hear gunfire. All morning listening to the thundering cannonade. The Katyusha heralded the beginning of the grand events. Everyone has gone to the front.
Our platoon hasn’t left supply, and I sleep out in the snow without anything to do. We are taking only what we can carry, and are mostly on foot. There are no longer enough horses.1 Well, not that we need any, none of us are ill. No dinner and no breakfast. Already been sitting for 12 hours.
Considering everyone’s behavior. Lewbov Reshetnikova is not in the platoon. She left with him.2 Yesterday wrote to Vovka Emelyanov. Congratulated him on his marriage to my dear friend Sasha Ekimova. And I wrote that our troika (Sasha, Kali, and I) no longer exists. I’m out of it, as our interests diverged and we have nothing to talk about. And Sasha will read it. If I wished to live in the platoon, then I would become friends with Valya Lazarenka, but I’m leaving the company. Made a pact with Vali not to talk in front-line language, and to not use even a single unprintable word. Whoever breaks the pact has to give the other their sugar for two weeks. Girls cuss, and we must not argue back. My Sasha has blossomed.
Wrote a letter home, in the spirit of: “Dear Mama, I’ve had a hard life and without a minute of hesitation left you in 1938. I don’t remember why, I don’t cast blame, I only beg that if I die, then give Julia an education. Please love Julia, as childhood becomes brighter in memory. Children – their joy.”3
Nikolai Solomatin wrote: “Wherever you are, noble falcon, I cherish you.” Wrote that without him I do not have a boy, etc. If I met him now, he would not deceive me. I have become more confidant; and he told me then that he loved me, and now he has forgotten, and I even learned that he has a wife. I condemned his flattery and hypocrisy, he does not love me, and I was not offended.
A photo of Chelyabinsk4 in an album of Valya L’s. Pretty young blonde. Her father, like mine, almost kicked her out of the house. We are the same, only I’m less interesting than her, but she is less educated than me. She envies me for that. “Love stands strong, it gives beauty where there is none, and forges chains which no spell can break.” (“Princess Heart”) On the second page a boy with cropped pants, shirt, with a dog, such a boy. Below, her on the front with the 159th RD in 1943. She loves horses terribly, wrote: “Being in the cavalry – you must not only love the business, but you need to have the soul of a cavalryman” – Ivan Nikulin.5 After the war, she wants to stay for life in the cavalry.
Further on us six standing in Lithuanian costumes, I and them. They also had a troika. Tanya was killed, Luda wounded, and now down to one. Here they are: Luda and Tani with Luda’s father, with Vali in the album.
Here is a postcard – a beautiful horse, that I gave her before the injury. Valya was wounded, too, and we left the hospital together. I wrote: “In memory of the days on the front-line, 24.10.44. Remember the march in East Prussia. On what do we base our lives, us front-line girls? I gather that there is no truth, only lies and hypocrisy. Look at us and remember… Eh, girl, where to take yourself – where there is truth? Not her.” Then, when I went to the front with the soldiers, and lied to myself that the bad ones weren’t behaving like children. Further on – “Die, but do not give a kiss without love.” – Chernyshevsky.6 Here is her poem:
When I am whiling away the difficult days,
days separated from you and my family,
I remember the past longingly,
discontented with my fate.
Of all my family I stood out
with curiosity and mysterious thoughts.
About races, and raids, and myself on a steed,
and my horse is so joyous, playful.
Oh you, so raven-black,
with a golden silk mane,
and in my difficult days,
you were my one true joy.
What a pleasure to ride in the dead of night,
on you, my eternal comrade,
under flak fire and shells together,
zipping through the storms and fires.
To know you, my friend, is to believe in you,
the one thing I loved.
If I had known and could speak,
I would say one thing to thee.
Now on a hospital bed
I can not forget you,
alone, quiet, my love.
For you, constantly sad,
do not be jealous, my beautiful,
the one I love so much.
Yes, I have to confess a little
sometimes I feel sad over Genke,
I miss him, but he does not love me,
He probably loves another.
Tells her: “Only one love.”
He and I said “Don’t forget.”
But it could not be for long,
he is ready to forget forever.
And nevermind – I forget everything,
about Genke, about first love.
And I will return to you, my comrade,
And I will caress you again7
Evacuation Hospital 3049, Kaunas [Lithuania], December 11th, 1944.
It’s frosty outside. The cannonade has not stopped, getting closer and closer, pushing on the right flank. We were ordered – move in to Eydtkuhnen.8 Not much to eat, brought sausage and bread. Our preliminary bombardment.
1 While the Americans moved largely by truck, the Soviet army still relied on 3.5 million horses.
2 No indication of who “him” is.
3 Julia was the youngest of the Shanin children, born in 1931. Roza taught her how to read and write, and would give her homework to do while Roza was at the formal school in Bereznik.
4 About 130 miles south of Yekaterinburg, near the border of Kazakhstan
6 From the novel “What is to be Done?” [“Что делать?”]
7 I can’t find this poem anywhere outside of the diary, and I’m guessing it’s something Valya wrote. It doesn’t rhyme in Russian, either.
8 Now known as Chernyshevsoye, Kaliningrad, Russia. Near the Lithuanian border. Coincidentally, it was renamed in 1946 after the author quoted in this very entry.