The Nevsky Wall
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Chapter 10   -  Fools, These Men Who Lay a City Waste

November 6

‘Say what you will about the Germans, at least the bastards are consistent,” Viktor said as the morning air raid sirens wailed and the members of his brigade prepared for another long day.

The Luftwaffe had taken to bombing the city on a precise schedule – two hour-long stints in the morning, one at 8:00 and one at 11:00, and two more in the late afternoon and evening, one at 5:00 and the last at 8:00. For many Leningraders, the morning siren was their wake-up call and the evening all-clear their lullaby.

An unusual stretch of clear, cold autumn weather was making it easy for the bombers to find their targets. “Another perfect day for them … what is that, five in a row? How about some fog down here, damn it!” Viktor shook his fist and cried to the heavens in mock fury – anything to lighten the mood in the firehouse – but his jokes and the nerves of the brigade were wearing thin.

Earlier that morning, he’d gone to the roof to get some peace and have a smoke. The city before him was windswept and snow covered, clouds racing out of the northwest, the sky behind them a cobalt blue. If a man climbed to the top of the Peter and Paul steeple, he thought, he could see a hundred miles in any direction. The squares and fields and prospekts felt open to the sky, unprotected, and the city was as cold and impersonal as the granite walls of the fortress. On days like these, there seemed to be nowhere for a person to hide.

The brigade was given a hot millet soup – more of a weak broth than anything – before heading out each morning. It wasn’t much, but it warmed the stomach. Viktor’s face had thinned considerably in the past month, and the pace of even the youngest of the brigade members had slowed. When they weren’t on a call, they sat quietly or slept in the ready room, saving what little energy they had.

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Chapter 10   -  Fools, These Men Who Lay a City Waste

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