Life and Fate Read Along, Part 1 Chapter 61

This post, covering Part 1, Chapter 61, is part of The Slavic Literature Pod’s chapter a day read along of Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. Learn more about our project here.

Stalingrad is a battlefield. Stalingrad is a city. Soldiers fight and spy and kill among the rubble of ruined apartment buildings; not far away, civilians watch distant explosions as they continue their day jobs. Somewhere unnoticed Klimov drops a grenade at the feet of several German soldiers; elsewhere Pavel Andreyev mourns his wife's death. 

The husband of the late Marusya Spiridonova, Stephan, continues his work as the head of a power station. Their daughter, Vera, stays in the combat zone hoping to reunite with the father of her child-to-be, Viktorov. With no functioning hospitals remaining, there is little other work for her to do as a nurse. 

To today, Volgograd still bears the title of "Hero City," granted to it under the nom-de-Soviet Stalingrad. That status marks the efforts of the city’s people during wartime — a city of heroes. 

But, through Grossman's lens, we understand that those who remain are not heroes. They are lonely and pining, they sometimes consider abandoning their tasks and taking their chances in flight, they drink too much because they're stressed or they can't fall asleep. They are, in short, people forced to live between a hammer and an anvil. Could you honestly say you would be any different?