9th September 1941
“Nazi bastards”. I am jolted awake by the groans of Kurzin, my bedfellow. Reality sinks in: three months ago I had a semi-happy life in Moscow. Nothing, physically or mentally, could prepare me for this.
I look down, and my hands are shaking. I know it’s not the cold – from here I can see the tawny clasps of hair falling down from under her helmet. Lars shoots, and my last unhealthy comrade trembles eerily on the blanketed ground, ripples of scarlet membrane flooding I am now sitting up, with my feet propped against the fire, praying for warmth. The bullets keep falling, rapping my eardrums like a distressed doorman. My friend died last night. It was an unhappy day for all of us, but the boss says to just keep pushing. I wonder, keep pushing against what? Our humanity? Heaven knows. Only Stalin can protect us now. Protect us from the scum that are snatching away handfuls of men every waking hour of our lives.
“Please, no. Not there” I plead, my gut burning with regret, hurt, and non-conformity. Lars, the head of our squadron, called us in to inform us of our next move. We have to be on the Western side of Siberia by nightfall – the territory of harsh, vice-like snowstorms and starving tigers. In all of my guilty thoughts, I miss her.
We’re here, in the line. Lars paces vertically, his boots scuppering the thin, dangerous ice. She watches me, her soft, brown eyes hawk-like, hunting down her prey. My heart collapses. What is she doing here? Why has she succumbed herself to this? The shameful, devastating truth – I know why. I am the reason why. When we are dismissed, she looks. Her innocent eyes bore into me, and a silent tear trickles down my face. In Moscow, she was my only friend. Now, she has become my only hope.
I remember back to a frozen, December evening two years ago, in 1939. The war had just started, our leader betrayed by that arrogant, moustached coward. Ruberta, my servant, strolled over to me, buckled down next to me on the chair. She asked me to turn around. I obliged, knowing I had given her a hard time about the paperwork when I’d thundered in, angry about work. At only 14, Ruberta became the only female that had ever admitted their love for me – and for two years, I forbade it. At 28 years old, I was 14 years her senior. In the dark dunes of Siberia, however, I decide I don’t care.
Obviously, women aren’t allowed in the army. How do I explain to Lars, that Ruberta isn’t a woman, but a teenage girl – blinded by her love, brave in her pointless journey? The alarm pounds. I watch her, her perfectly curved figure bouncing as she shivers, waiting in line for her health assessment. Usually, Lars only removes one or two privates, never any more. This time, he is looking people in the eye, pointing the barrel to their temples, and blowing their brains out, with an abnormal, sadistic smile on his face.
Unwillingly, I decide it is time for us to go. I take some rope, bullets, and my shotgun – I convince myself I need them for protection and escape.
We run to an abandoned house, about a mile away from camp. We both would have run further, had it not been for my frostbitten limbs – the pain was eating me away. I follow her in, boiling with desire – the only warmth I have to cling on to. We’re not even through the door – her soft moans echo sweetly in the gloom – I love her, she loves me. That’s all I needed to know before I did it.
10th September 1941
The boss drove us to our HQ. Those Russian delinquents have no clue – Nazis will win. Hitler said so.
HQ was awful. We’re going to have to change course. Piers and I investigated, cleared the area for targets. Stumbling through the door, we saw them – a young Russian girl and an older man, still entwined, hanging limply from the ceiling – bullet wounds seeping.
Piers screamed, I vomited – they were still naked, still touching.
It was all too much.