Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Last Letters From Stalingrad: #1

...MY LIFE HAS CHANGED IN NOTHING; it is now as it was ten years ago, blessed by the stars, avoided by men. I had no friends, and you know why they wanted to have nothing to do with me. I was happy when I could sit at the telescope and look at the sky and the world of stars, happy as a child that is allowed to play with the stars. 
You were my best friend Monica. Yes, you read correctly, you were. The time is too serious for jokes. This letter will take two weeks to reach you. By then you will already have read in the papers what has taken place here. Don't think too much about it, for in reality everything will have ended differently: let other people worry about setting the record straight. What are they to you or me? I always thought in light-years, but I felt in seconds. Here, too, I have much to do with the weather. There are four of us and, if things were to continue the way they are now, we would be content. What we do is very simple. Our job is to measure temperatures and humidity, to report on cloud ceilings and visibility. If some bureaucrat read what I write here, he would have a fit...violation of military security. Monica, what is our life compared to the many million years of the starry sky!  On this beautiful night, Andromeda and Pegasus are right above my head. I have looked at them for a long time; I shall be very close to them soon. My peace and contentment I owe to the stars, of which you are the most beautiful to me. The stars are eternal, but the life of man is like a speck of dust in the Universe. 
Around me everything is collapsing, a whole army is dying, day and night are on fire, and four men busy themselves with daily reports on temperature and cloud ceilings. I don't know much about war. No human being has died by my hand. I haven't even fired live ammunition from my pistol. But I know this much: the other side would never show such a lack of understanding for its men. I should have liked to count the stars for another few decades, but nothing will ever come of it now, I suppose.


  1. I'm not meaning to strike a somber tone this season. It's just that reflecting on my father's letters home got me to thinking about the "Last Letters From Stalingrad". Plus I recently ran across an audio cassette tape of an old Madison radio DJ reading some of these live on air at Christmastime.

    Gets me wistful is all.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. I heard the same reading by the Madison DJ several Christmas times back in the day, and it always evoked a deeply emotional response.