There is the city by the wide river, beyond it there is only the immense steppe, to the sea. There was a turning point, they say, a combat of titans.
Here, the river is slow and narrow, feeling its way to the Elbe. There are, all around, woods and and lakes: water reigns. I walk those streets, haunt those memorials, read the grafiti on the walls of the Reichstag, carefully preserved, that remind us of those who walked all the way from the city by the wide river, to meet their fate here.
I live here, and think constantly of the long road, from the shore of the Volga.
Image: Soviet War Memorial, Schönholzer Heide, Berlin
The year is 1942. At night he sleeps under his tank, wrapped in a light blanket. But then it is still only autumn. In the morning he washes in cold icy water, polishes his boots, oils his Mauser, and talks to his men, before they resume their journey, further East.
They worship him. He is a decorated hero, and hates the thugs who rule his country, and have sent them all to war, in this immensity. Yet he is a member of an elite caste: an officer, a knight. He wears his iron cross with pride, as his father has done before him.
He looks at the map. Only 100km from Stalingrad.
A prisoner of war, after Paulus’ s surrender, he will die in Siberia, of cold and starvation.