Winter always makes me think of the Soviet experience in World War II. The severity of the Russian winter made what was already a brutal and difficult war even worse; and there must have been some unimaginably bleak days for the soldiers who were trying so desperately to defend their Motherland.
Artillery defending the vicinity of Moscow. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #46802/ Temin/CC-BY-SA 3.0
Last night I wrote this poem, with the 1941/42 defense of Moscow in mind. For me, the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War was defined by great suffering and tragedy but also an omnipresent determination to go on. Even while being routed by the invading Wehrmacht in the first months of the war, people remained defiant and resolute in their cause. I hope you enjoy the poem, and its accompanying photographs of winter on the Eastern Front.
Here, Soviet aircraft overfly German positions near Moscow. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #2564/ Samaryi Guraryi/ CC-BY-SA 3.0
A wonderful poster boldly stating, “We will defend Moscow!” By unknown author, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
On the Winter Wind
The winter wind is coming,
A wraith riding on his wings
Coming, closer, coming
And the wraith unearthly sings;
Its song not yet known to man
Harsh and fierce, it fills the sky
And now, now I understand
It sings a battle-cry.
The winter wind approaches
And on his wings is War
From homes and fields and trenches
We hear the cry once more
The cry of conquest, ages old
They come as men and leave as bones
Forgetting that we are Russian souls;
More stubborn here than stones.
Winter’s breath cannot break us,
Nor can War’s fatal song
Triumph will not be denied us;
When we see these frosty spirits gone.
The winter wind shrieks above
We sense the wraith’s most vile lure
But their assault is not enough;
We are Russian, we endure.
© Adair Jacobs, 2016
A tank of Germans with what appear to be Soviet civilians, perhaps displaced. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B15686/ Gebauer/ CC-BY-SA 3.0
On November 7, thousands of fresh troops marched through the heart of Moscow on their war to the front. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #429/ Oleg Ignatovich/ CC-BY-SA 3.0
German soldiers retreat through the snow and winter wind. From Druhá svetova válka strucné dejiny, nakladatelstvi Svoboda Praha via Wikimedia Commons, unknown author, public domain.
Tankers go to the front with hope; their tank displaying the words “Happy New Year!”. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #266/ Alexander Kapustyanskiy/ CC-BY-SA 3.0