74 years ago today, on an unassuming early summer morning, German bombs and artillery in Eastern Europe began the largest land invasion in history. To commemorate this sombre anniversary, I’m sharing a poem I wrote about 3-4 years ago– I hope that its words will speak for themselves, and illustrate the suffering and simultaneous resolve of the many Red Army soldiers who fought and died on this day and the days following in 1941.
A Soldier’s Dying Thoughts
On a closing summer’s day the birds fly, singing, high above
The sparkling streams mix and play in the fields near Rostov.
It seems that they are touched not by this brutal war of men
They do not see, or remember not the Death brought to the Motherland.
Let them rejoice; they are free, but I have not escaped it
Death’s cold voice calls to me, and I cannot change it.
For though birds sing, all I can hear is the sharp burst of machine-gun rounds
The shriek of rockets though the air, and human cries above these sounds.
What has been done to our country? It goes on and yet will be gone
Overthrown by this dark enemy– Stolen, despite its courageous sons.
We have fought hard, my friends and I; but we see our lives in vain!
All we can do is fight with pride, and defend with only death to gain.
Perhaps our fathers will remember when this time comes to pass
But this is my final hour, my vibrant years went far too fast.
I know I am dying, passing away– My days for the Motherland were few
The future I had did not betray that I would falter in my youth.
I try to remember what I have done for Russia, for truth, for glory;
But gratification does not come, and our borders fall to the enemy.
All I see is the horror around me, the creeping reality that I will die
So far from all that is dear to me; and as I lie fallen, I cry.
I see Katya’s face o’er the battlefield, clearly I recall our farewell
I know she is waiting for me still– I thought I could endure this hell.
But go on I cannot, not even for her, and it is no choice of mine
My days with Katya seem a blur in my darkening mind.
I have killed many in my fear, unwilling for Katya to be alone
But now I see the end is near and I will never return home.
Now, with all my intentions, where am I? Fallen, and so horribly wanting
Broken and bleeding in the mud I lie, my breath and my will faltering
I wonder if Katya will know of my fall, if she will mourn over me
Gladly again I would endure this all, to see her live happily
And I feel the numbness of death in my bones now as I raise my eyes to the sun
In it I feel peace and the presence of those who fail not, and will see our cause won.
Although as I perceive its dazzling light I feel pain and despair at the end;
And wish that it did not shine so bright or illuminate so sharply the land
For I can see all; the bodies so cold, and the pool of my blood still warm from my veins
That lies beside me, a red rich and bold drowning the dreams I shall now not attain;
I see my comrades, but cannot call out– They cannot help me, and despair fills my mind
For I had much to live for–no doubt, had my destiny not been so unkind
All that I had is now taken away and I do not know what to foresee,
Though a place in the sky, my Katya would say, awaits those true and meek who believe.
I hold onto this as hard I can, though my eyes darken with death
And I see there is hope for every man, even one as far gone as myself;
And as my eyes close I embrace the light which covers the blood and memory of war
I feel not the pain nor the loss of the fight, and am being raised up towards a new door.
As I float up, I dare to look back– below is Katya, a lone tear in her eye,
And all of the friends I’d lost to the dark. I know she’s not coming, it’s not yet time
But I am no longer afraid, I feel new peace in my heart as I go
And realize as I am pulled through the gate the truth that before I did not know.
Before the door closes, I look at the field and know that others will join me tonight;
Katya waves, and the door is sealed, giving me victory and the end of the fight.