(Reflections upon reading
Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad)
Patriotism can be shallow
or even cruel.
and hard to square
with our values.
Is there something deeper,
Something more human, more loving?
Accounts of Russia during WW2
Describe a willingness to sacrifice,
To stand together in the face of a
ruthless inhuman enemy.
It comes from deep inside of a people,
Proud of what they have accomplished,
Aware of their vulnerability
And still humiliated by their relative backwardness.
Not surprisingly Hitler took that as weakness.
How could a fascist understand
The collective strength of these “unter menschen.”
The strength to endure enormous hardship
To resist and then
Take the fight to the enemy.
The strength to see and forgive a comrade’s shortcomings
While still holding him or her to account.
To find love in moments of calm, always aware that
German bombers could appear at any time.
This is the stuff of history.
It is the source of our power,
Our determination to not succumb.
In telling this story, Grossman evokes
Stories of the past
Across the river of time:
“And in the dark and troubled days of 1812, a courier sent by Rostopchin, governor of Moscow, could ride by night to Kutuzov’s HQ, have time for a few hours rest and a meal, and be back in Moscow by evening with the latest despatches.”
The fascists broke.
Their brittle, ruthless inhumanity
Did not prevail.