The True Soviet: A Short Story

Let me begin this post by saying that I am not personally a Soviet, communist, or anything of the sort. That said, Soviet culture and particularly the culture and attitudes within the Red Army of World War II fascinate me. While I tend to look at Soviet socialism with a critical eye, and while this ideology had many sins and downfalls; it’s true that many people were very sincerely committed to it. There were citizens who believed that it was the best way forward, and who were committed to using it to its full potential. With that in mind, I wrote this short story; examining the actions of a loyal Soviet soldier throughout his unfortunate capture on the Eastern Front.

The True Soviet

The fascists captured me three days after they took Vyazma. I was still in the foxhole behind my machinegun when the panzers started rolling past. Ilya Soshnikov, my assistant gunner, had lain dead beside me for at least a day and a half; so I tried throwing grenades under the passing tanks instead of shooting. It didn’t have much effect, but I was determined to fight on. I felt sure that I would only leave the foxhole when the fascists dragged me out as a corpse.

Soon the tanks were gone, and the infantry appeared to liquidate the area. They quickly noticed that I was alive, and I quickly realised my stupidity. Idiot. It’s impossible to shoot yourself with a DP28, so I should have saved one grenade for myself. That would have been the Soviet thing to do. But I didn’t. I’d thrown them all fruitlessly under the tracks of the panzers. Thanks to my stupidity, the fascists caught one live and healthy Soviet that day.

I found myself being marched with others to a makeshift POW camp somewhere south of Vyazma. The journey was long and hard, and the fascists kept us going for hours at a time despite the speed of our pace. At the beginning of the march I was only angry at myself for allowing the fascists to capture me; but I became increasingly troubled and less angry as it progressed. I started thinking about what was to become of me. How would I, a true (if shamed) Soviet, cope in the hands of the fascist enemy?

The camp came into sight after many hours. It was set secluded in a valley, and though the sun was setting behind the surrounding hills it was easy to see that this camp offered no shelter. The fascists had tents to sleep in, but we prisoners had nothing. And there were hundreds of us, maybe a thousand. I despair that so many Red Army men have chosen the disgrace of capture. I did have the good fortune to meet another true Soviet who shared my shame– although he had less cause to feel shame than I do. Maksim Ilyich Belkin was captured a few miles from where I was, having been knocked unconscious by artillery. Poor soul, he woke up on the back of a German wagon.

A number of the other prisoners told me quite early on that I should consider throwing away my Party membership card. Needless to say, I balked at that. I will cling to my Party card like I should have clung to that last grenade! However, apparently the fascists have shot every comrade commissar to set foot in this camp, and my comrades told me they’re likely to shoot anyone with a Party card. That’s another reason for me to keep it. A true Soviet should be ready to die for socialism.

As the days passed, I became more and more tormented. There was some talk that we prisoners would be shipped to Germany to work in munitions factories there. I couldn’t tolerate such a fate, and confessed my fear to Maksim Ilyich.

“I won’t go to Germany,” I told him. “I will never help the fascists more than I already have.”

“Then what will you do? Will you escape and run away?”

I sighed. “I don’t know yet. I guess it would be possible to slip away from this camp at night.”

“You might never find Soviet units though, you’ve no way of knowing their positions,” he said. “And if you don’t rejoin the fight, that’s desertion.”

But it was worse than that. I know Soviet law inside and out, I’ve lived the Soviet life since I was fifteen years old; and I knew that I must find Soviet units again, but I could never rejoin the fight. If you’re captured by the fascists, you’re no longer worthy of being called a Soviet. The only thing left for you is death.

I pondered this for a few days, while also plotting my escape. Of course, I did think about ending it all at the camp; but the fascists had confiscated my knife, my razor, even my belt. I didn’t know how I was going to escape, but then Maksim Ilyich told me a plan which suited us both. We would wait until dark, and then he would attack one of the perimeter guards, allowing me to escape. We knew that such an attack would probably result in him being executed, but Maksim Ilyich was looking for a noble escape just as much as I was.

Last night was the night of our plan. I was sorry to leave Maksim Ilyich; as he had become a good friend and I saw in him a pure Soviet heart. If only I had kept one last grenade, I could have been an honourable citizen and soldier like he was!

“Good luck, my friend,” he whispered, shaking my hand. “I’m sorry the circumstances are what they are.”

I reciprocated his sentiment, and then he was off after the nearest fascist guard. As soon as the shouting began, I was off on my own way. Scrambling up the eastern hillside, I didn’t slow for anything– not even when I heard the single gunshot that was probably the end of my good comrade Maksim Ilyich. I stumbled on through the night, hungry and troubled and despairing that I’d let this situation come about. I traversed countless miles of ravaged terrain; and it pained me that the flesh of the Motherland had been cut so deep by the fascists I was sworn to fight. I have failed my Soviet duty, and must atone for it and be shamed forever. The only way to atonement is death.

Finally, a group of scouts found me. I felt both relieved and ashamed to see the Red Star worn so proudly on their uniforms. “Comrade!” They greeted me warmly. “Where are you coming from?”

“You won’t greet me so when you find out,” I replied, and explained to them my capture and my escape. When their expressions turned grave, I said, “I know. Just take me to the commissar.”

They did so, not speaking to me any further but giving me looks of both sympathy and disdain on the way. I was brought before the regimental commissar to face my fate– the regimental commissar, such is the severity of my sin. When I came before him, I expected to feel my spirit broken. But instead of shame and defeat, I felt mostly regret. What could have been… but there’s no sense in thinking about what I might have been when I can still control what I am.

The commissar began to speak, with all the harshness that I deserve. “You allowed yourself to be captured by the fascists. The Soviet soldier is worth more dead than in the hands of the enemy. You went through training, you had a commissar. You know this!”

I nodded. “I do.”

“Well, then. What’s your name? Sergei Yuryevich Petrokovsky, you have violated our solemn Red Army Oath, and are hereby sentenced to death.”

I nodded again, finding both relief and disgust at my sentence. How could I have done such a thing? As I was led to custody, I passed the commissar.

Scrutinising me with curious eyes, he said, “You escaped and made your way back here. You’re a Party member. You knew how we would receive you.”

I clenched my teeth until I could reply. “I might be a fool,” I said, “but I don’t desert.”

“Hmm,” the commissar shrugged, waving me away. “Well, that’s something.”

Today I faced the commissar, and tomorrow I face the firing squad. As I should. But I feel that the commissar was right, that is something. I was foolish in battle, and I must pay for it; in fact, I’m determined to pay for it. My life is useless now, but I won’t let even an unforgivable mistake separate me from my cause. I was too weak, but my comrades are strong; and I hope I’ve acted in the end like a true Soviet, even if I was never a good one. At the end, I stand by this oath of my beloved Soviet Motherland:

If, for some evil intentions, I violate this herein-solemn oath, let the Soviet Law, nationwide hatred and contempt of all the workers strictly punish me.

© Adair E. R. Jacobs, 2017

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Dance of the Snowflakes: A Poem

Dance of the Snowflakes

The snowflakes dance to this new song of joy,

Like the angels did all those years ago

Their dance tells a story death will never destroy;

Describing a hope far brighter than snow.

The snowflakes are silver but they shine like gold

And glow like fireflies in the silent sky

Sparkling like precious gems in the night so cold,

Like the treasures brought by the faithful magi.

The snowflakes are like fair beacons of light,

Like the Star that shone over Bethlehem

Guiding the world through its long, dark night

Until the day when the Saviour returns to men.

The snowflakes are many, like the years of the earth

And like my blessings, too many to count

They demonstrate hope’s invaluable worth

And show us the peace that meek stable found.

The snowflakes still dance to this song of joy,

Like the angels did all those years ago

They speak of a love evil will never destroy;

A love which will set our cold hearts aglow.

© Adair Jacobs 2016

Glam for the Holidays

For me, Christmas fashion should be cosy, full of life and joy, and a little bit nostalgic– just like the holiday season itself. For years, dressing up for Christmas and my family’s annual Boxing Day celebration has been my fashion highlight of the year. I always try to wear something comfy and warm, with plenty of sparkling accessories as well!
Glam for the Holidays

 


This look encompasses everything I love about Christmas fashion. It has small reminders of years past, thanks to the ’40s style pleated skirt and peep-toe sandals. The jacquard purse and mink cape add a touch of richness and luxury, and the nude nail polish and red lipstick keep the look classic. However, Christmas is also about looking ahead and hope for the future; so I updated this outfit with a very modern white jumper. Finally, gold and ruby jewellery gives the holiday panache that is so important in Christmas dressing! Fashion at Christmastime should make one feel warm, contented, and hopeful, and I hope that this look does just that.

On the Winter Wind: A Poem

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.

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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.

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Here, Soviet aircraft overfly German positions near Moscow. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #2564/ Samaryi Guraryi/ CC-BY-SA 3.0

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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

Russland, bei Istra, Flüchtlinge

A tank of Germans with what appear to be Soviet civilians, perhaps displaced. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B15686/ Gebauer/ CC-BY-SA 3.0

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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

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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.

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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

 

Celebration Wear

In September of this year, I fulfilled a long-held wish; and attended my first wedding! One of my older cousins was getting married, and I was delighted to be attending her wedding. There had never been any family or friends’ weddings for me to attend before, and ever since I was a preteen I’d always wanted to be invited to one of these momentous and celebratory occasions. My cousin’s wedding was really special and emotional for me. Perhaps it affected me so much because it was the first wedding I’d been to, but I was really struck by the significance of the proceedings and the love and happiness I could see between my cousin and her new husband. That, and the circumstances of my own life, meant that I was in happy and conflicted tears by the time the dancing began. Anyway, although my face got red and puffy, at least I had put a lot of thought into what I was wearing!Celebration Wear

 

Part of why I so wanted to go to a wedding was because it was a chance to dress up. Usually when I dress up it’s to go to the movies or church, and nobody else generally takes those opportunities in the way I do. It was exciting to be going somewhere that I knew everyone was going to be looking fancy. The above is a representation of my wedding outfit. I had an emerald dress with a tulip skirt, and floral gold jewellery which really popped against the green. My makeup and nail polish were in a vintage rose colour, and I stuck with classic black for my shoes and handbag. I felt great in my outfit, but what I will remember most are the emotions of the night. It was truly a beautiful evening, and I am really grateful that I was invited to be a part of it. To my cousin and her husband, you had a wonderful wedding, and I hope that your life together will be many times as wonderful!

Relics of Remembrance

Two major events are occurring at the moment in my life… my parents recently returned from a three-week trip to the UK; and since Remembrance Day is coming up, it is Veterans’ Week here in Canada. Are these events unrelated? They certainly seem to be, but actually their simultaneous occurrence could not have been more fortunate.

My parents brought back some souvenirs for me, and I am so glad they know me so well and that their trip was so close to Remembrance Day. No I Love London t-shirts or tacky keychains here… instead, they brought me back some fantastic military artifacts and Poppy Appeal products just in time for this special week of remembrance.

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On my trips to the UK, I’ve commonly seen these simple wooden crosses laid against war memorials and memorial plaques. My remembrance cross, in honour of my great-great uncle William Edward Jones killed at the Somme, stands here in my mum’s living room garden

Unlike in Canada where the only products commonly sold are lapel poppies, the UK’s Poppy Appeal offers a wide range of products. One of the most unique is a large plastic poppy for affixing to a car grille. My brother and I each got one of these poppies; and since we are both dedicated petrolheads with a great love for our cars, there could be no better way to show our respect than with our automobiles.

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These car poppies really stand out and are very beautiful.

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I think it’s very fitting that my car, an ex-police vehicle used to serve and protect, is now showing respect for those who sacrificed in that same mission of service and protection.

I think it’s very important to buy and wear a poppy every year. It’s a simple display of respect which is easily overlooked, but the purchase of poppies funds help for the people who have selflessly helped us, often to their own detriment. And the wearing of poppies demonstrates not only to veterans and serving members, but also to ourselves and our peers that we recognise the contributions made- even in vain- to the security and peace of this country and the world at large. Poppies don’t condone war; they simply acknowledge the sacrifices made by people in terrible circumstances as they attempt to make the world a better place.

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This year I am wearing a Canadian poppy at work, and a British poppy (seen here) in all other situations.

My parents aren’t the only ones who know how much I appreciate military stuff. My church’s former vicar is well aware of my interests, and he recently gave me a bunch of deactivated WWII-era ammunition! There are some .30 cal rounds, two .50 cal rounds, some smaller pistol rounds, and one 20 mm round. 20 mm rounds are often used in aircraft cannons, so this is quite a magnificent artifact to have!

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The weight of these bullets, although their entrails have been removed, is quite something

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My parents also brought back these Royal Marines badges from the UK. My collection grows!

With Remembrance Day quickly approaching, there is certainly a lot that reminds me to remember. These souvenirs from the UK are some of the most special I’ve got, and the timing could not have been better. I am remembering this Veterans’ Week, and I hope that this post inspires you to as well.

Old Hollywood

It’s no secret that the fashions of the past captivate me much more than the fashions of today! I must admit that I don’t understand many current trends– crop tops and jeans that look like they’ve been attacked by a wolverine just do not appeal to me. I believe that fashion should make an impression in ways other than by simply showing a lot of skin; and past eras serve this aesthetic much better than today’s does.
Old Hollywood

 

Old Hollywood by adairjacobs on Polyvore
Looking at today’s runways and red carpets, every other outfit seems to be either sheer or full of cut-outs… or both. Some of these dresses can be very tastefully worn, but most are things I would never be comfortable wearing. This evening look is an Old Hollywood-inspired alternative; which I think is far more stunning than any 21st century look! A gorgeous pale pink satin dress paired with a grey fur coat defines this outfit as the ultimate in luxury. Jewellery featuring emeralds and diamonds adds visual sparkle and interest, and contributes to the 1930s feel. More modern-looking sandals from Vivienne Westwood update the look, while an unusual Art Deco clutch is a memorable accessory. Finally, red nail polish and lipstick add a timeless makeup look which ensures that an ensemble like this will be remembered for all the right reasons!