The Nevsky Wall
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Chapter 5   -  The Luga Line

He motioned to the woman in the yellow dress and asked for her story. She squinted up at him from the bottom of the trench. “My name, sir, is Olga Dorovina, and this is my daughter Katya. We live in the Smolny district, near the park. My husband is an engineer working in the east, very highly placed. He hasn’t yet been able to return to us, but we expect him any day.” As she spoke, she tried in vain to brush the dust from her dress.

“I was told by our housing supervisor to report for my patriotic duty – that was three days ago. I’m proud to do my part, I am, but my daughter … I couldn’t leave her all alone – what could I do? We’ve been here for two days now, and I’m concerned for her, sir. She’s a delicate girl, a scholar, a bright child. She’s just not suited for this kind of life – I mean, sleeping rough … and the food!

The daughter pulled at her mother’s arm, saying “Mama, please,” her face crimson. Only then did the mother notice the lieutenant and the other workers looking at her with reproach. “But … we want to do our part, in any way we can,” she added, and speaking loudly now for all to hear, “I’ve always said that Comrade Stalin asks no more of us than what we can give!” And with that she lowered her head, resumed digging, and motioned for her daughter to do the same.

The eager young woman in the upper tier raised her hand and spoke up. “My name is Dariya Vasilyevna. My friends call me Dasha. Some of us from the institute came … was it a week ago? I’ve lost all sense of time.” She waved to one of her friends nearby. “We volunteered as a group when we heard the news. All the men are gone – my father, my brothers, the boys from the institute … we kissed them, said our goodbyes, and they were gone. I wanted to go and fight alongside them. Did you know that I can fire a rifle as well as anyone!”

She paused and looked out over the dusty plain. “But this is where we are needed. Men may know how to fight, but women … women know how to work. It’s the truth. Yes, the work here is difficult – just look at my hands!” She unwrapped the piece of cloth wrapped around her blistered right hand and showed it to Alex. “I won’t be playing the violin anytime soon!” and she smiled. “That life – school, music, sports, love – that ordinary life is on hold. It seems a million miles away. The only important thing right now is duty, to our country and each other. I’ve lived more in the last week than I have in the last ten years, I can tell you. We work like mules all day in this heat, but at night, hungry and tired, we sit in the lamplight telling stories to one another. We sing! I’ve met people from all parts, and they’ve become my friends. Yes, the work is hard, but this is where we are needed.” She looked up at Alex with wide eyes.

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Chapter 5   -  The Luga Line

3 Responses to “Chapter 5”

  1. G Garcia says:

    “Did you know that I can fire a rifle as well as anyone!””

    My kind of girl.

  2. G Garcia says:

    Powerful. I’M HOOKED.

    Now I am late to work. Damn you.

    So many beautifully written passages to swirl about, making your writing a pleasure to read, because these things I genuinely feel. To quote a few:

    “truth to her, was a performance”

    “But the dread of waiting and the lack of positive news was a disease eating away at the city. The central apparatus of morale, which had sprung into full action in those early days, required heroes. *** And if they could not be found, they would be created.**** ”

    “newsreels were a magic show pitched at the common man”

    “The audience needs to see faces that remind them of themselves.”

  3. Rosli says:

    Hi pip,i love your photos.i raced the SJS this wekeend in Gunnedah. i came 3rd in the swim . 5th on the bike and had a really bad run! i am racing again next wekeend.i miss you guys hi uncle justin. good luck in your next race!i also loved your youtube video.lots of love baixxx

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