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 The War's Unwomanly Face

 Last Witness

 Zinky Boys

 The Chernobyl Prayer




...All that we know about Woman is best described by the word "compassion". There are other words, too-sister, wife, friend and, the noblest of all, mother. But isn't compassion a part of all these concepts, their very substance, their purpose and their ultimate meaning? A woman is the giver of life, she safeguards life, so "Woman" and "life" are synonyms.
But during the most terrible war of the 20th century a woman had to become a soldier. She not only rescued and bandaged the wounded; she also fired a sniper's rifle, dropped bombs, blew up bridges, went reconnoitering, and captured identification prisoners. A woman killed. She killed the enemy who, with unprecedented cruelty, was attacking her land, her home, her childre...

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...On the morning of the twenty-second June, 1941, on one of the streets in Brest, lay a dead little dirl with small unplaited pigtails and her doll. Many people remembered this girl. They remembered her forever.
What is dearer to us that our children? What is dearer to any nation?
To any mother? To any father? But who counts how many children are killed by war, which kills them twice? It kills those that been born. And it kills those that could, that ought to have come into this world. In "Requiem" by the Byelorussian poet Anatoli Vertinsky a children's choir is heard across the field where the dead soldiers lay - the unborn children scream and cry over every common grave. Is a child going through the horrors of war still a child? Who gives him back his childhood? Once Dostoevsky posed the problem of general happiness in relation to the suffering of a single child. Yet there were thousands like this during the years 1941 to 1945...

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...The men and women who express their thoughts and experiences in the following pages need no introduction -- they must speak for themselves. The confusion and contradictions displayed by some are as revealing as the honesty and insight of others. As we listen to them, however, we need to bear in mind certain aspects of Soviet life with no immediate parallel in the West.
To begin with, we may find it difficult to envisage the almost complete ignorance in which the Soviet public was kept about the war, at least until the advent of some measure of media freedom(the celebrated glasnost) in the mid-1980s. The information available to ordinary people amounted to a few pat phrases about the 'limited contingent' of Soviet troops and the 'fulfilling of international obligations', together with much anti-American propaganda. True public debate and political opposition of the sort which, at the very least, provides some counterweight to the government version of events in more open societies, simply did not exist...
Julia R Robin Whitby, translator


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...Chernobyl is a mystery still. We are the first who have touched it. Something has happened to us, something that is unknown for all the rest of humankind, something that will be a problem for the next millenium. For that something we have no experience, no analogies, no words.
We cannot apply to that something our inner instruments and our knowledge. Our vocabulary is too limited to describe this something. Our sight and our hearing are insufficient. We have reached a new borderline. Not only we Byelorussians, Russians and Ukrainians, but all the nations of the world are standing now near this new borderline. It will be naive and maybe criminal simplification to think about Chernobyl in terms of anticommunizm only. To think that the blame is exclusively on communists because for them a human life is worth nothing. There is also another simplified explanation of the kind: stupid Russians are building bad and cheap atomic power stations but our stations are good and reliable. But this is very simple and very perfunctory way of thinking. If we'll dig harder and dipper we'll see that the blow of Chernobyl had our unprepared consciousness as a background. Our technology has stopped into atomic age but our psychology is in primary industrialization age still...

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