Dear Jo,

Jo, my dearest Jo, я люблю вас, je t’aime tant –

My heart is lighter when I say these things to you. And I waited so long, the fool I was! – an autumn with three campaigns in the Airborne, 23 dogtags taken from dead enemies and 16 lost comrades.

I came here with the cold, reasonable explanation that it was meant to be. I left home – I left you, with the serenity and wisdom of one who knows this is just a part of all our lives and there will be many other parts. I knew those parts well too, they were my creation and yours. I went to war because it was a piece of everyone’s life and I had done everything right until that moment, so this just fit in, like a piece of the jigsaw. I would come home, when it was over, with stories of battle to tell our grandchildren.

But now, I’m not so sure any more. My mind, the mind of a mathematician, is truly uneasy now. Where numbers fail, there’s room for doubts and questions. And the only thing I can do is count them.

It snowed here, in Moscow, all day long. Mashka was shot by a sniper, right in the middle of the square, near the frozen fountain. We watched from the shelter as her blood impregnated last night’s snow, then as the fresh snow covered her one tiny layer after another. Now she’s completely buried. In my mind, I saw a picture of her, as if I could see through the thick snow: there’s a blood aura around her head, in the shape of a globe, with small, sinuous paths, like the veins of a new organism, where Mashka’s blood reached out, then turned cold and froze.

Forgive me for my poor writing skills. I don’t know how to write to you.

I lay hidden for hours, each day, covered with snow, covered with the white wool cape, me and my rifle, one invisible stone, through the blizzard. Then I hear an artillery shell falling and my hand is steady as I count down the wailing of the bomb, the time left in my target’s life.

But now, when I write this, my hand is not steady any more. I am more afraid of what my letters will say to you then I am of losing my life.

Darius taught me about letters, but now Darius is dead and I don’t know where to begin. I asked our professor, Dimitry Tvo, once, why he didn’t write novels, like all the great authors he loved so much – he said „I didn’t truly learn their wonderful art until I was old. They died too soon and I began writing too late”.

He was right, but in that special kind of way that one gets to experience in real life, eventually – for me, Darius died too soon and I began writing to you too late.

I would ask for forgiveness, if only I knew where I began to be wrong.

What I do know is that I am alive and that’s enough to fight my way back home, to you.

Yours, with love,
Ivan Luluben

Posted January 7th,
To Joconde Abraham