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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Grigory Baklanov
Age Range: 14+
At only 19, Volodya Tretyakov is already a seasoned soldier. He is a lieutenant and has fought the Germans on the steppes of the Western Soviet Union for two years, been wounded and returned to the fighting. In 1943 Volodya is assigned as commander of a Red Army artillery battery on the Ukrainian front. Once again he must endure fear and privations as he learns to command and earn the respect of both the dedicated and despairing soldiers serving under him who are all young, all fodder for the huge rolling machine of war. The boredom is broken only by the horrors of battle and the simple pleasures of tobacco, vodka, and a rare hot meal.
When Volodya is wounded yet again, he is evacuated to a military hospital in the Urals where he meets a young girl Sasha. A romance soon develops and begins to mature before he recovers and is returned to the front to his old artillery battery. The war is almost at an end, the Germans are beaten, but they still continue to fight. Volodya is philosophical and resigned to his fate, he has been through so much surviving many injuries only to return once again to the front. Now he faces his last, ultimate and final battle.
Detailed in incident, Grigory Baklenov lets the specifics of combat speak for themselves. Volodya Tretyakov will be ‘forever nineteen’ in the memories of his friends and relatives. This book is the depiction of the particularly Russian experience of the war and Baklanov presents in an understated way the importance of the sacrifices made, both military and civilian during wartime.