Jo, darling,

I limped into the improvised bunker, to write this. Commercial transmission is still online, but probably not for long. We have a couple of hours till the first armored columns arrive. Earlier this morning, the 7th and 12th army regrouped a few miles behind our position. We thought they were massing for another assault, so the captain signaled our position and required med-evac. The answer was negative. They said, if possible, clear the area pending a full scale engagement – and join the paratroopers. They left me and two other men behind, in the entrenched houses and they went east, towards the enemy line, where the para division would drop later this afternoon.

Bashar and I cannot walk, due to our wounds. Evgheny won’t make it past this evening probably. He’s loaded with morphine – we placed him on a bed, in one of the houses still standing, with a nice room, abandoned in a hurry, quite likely the bedroom of a young family. We figured that, some time, near the end, he will awake and be lucid for a couple of minutes – and that’s the best room for him to leave this world from. His ears were bleeding heavily after the bomb shell hit him, so I don’t think he can hear any of the sounds of war. The trembling ground could remind him of the war nearby, but otherwise the room is peaceful and cheering, so he will be fine. God rest his soul when his life will leave him, we’ll likely be fighting hard for ours.

An hour ago, we saw the enemy. I hadn’t thought this was possible in our century – a land battle of this size. No aircraft will engage because each side has devastating air defense firepower. The artillery is still. With the troops so close apart, it will remain silent probably. The tactical communications are shattered, so all will be decided by short range field command. That’s why both sides engage on thin front lines, with dogfight tactics. And we’re in the middle.

If our side wins, we’ll take Moscow and this battle will be over, for some time. Probably there will be a truce. Peace even, maybe. Neither side has the strength to want more. I will be free from the army and come to you. If their side wins, they’ve conquered us. I will run away just as well.

The drop of irony is I will probably take down more enemies before night fall then ever before – I cannot relocate after each shot and even if I weren’t wounded, I wouldn’t bother. Nobody is likely to notice a rifleman when the battlefield is packed with heavy armor. Bashar’s in the crow’s nest – as soon as he gives the signal, I’ll leave the entrenched position and crawl to a two store ruin across the street.

There’s one thing this war has taught me: there is no hope. No matter how much faith I have or how hard I fight, it will never be as I wish. So, now it’s only chance that governs me. In full honesty, this is the easiest mission of my life. I’ll just hide in the rubble, wrap the rifle muzzle in some wet rags and shoot, one bullet after another. In the grand scheme of things, if I don’t waste my ammo, about 200 enemies will no longer play a part and I don’t feel anything about that, not even that twisted excuse of the military : „it’s either you or them” – because they will not notice me in either case, if I shoot or if I don’t. I don’t know if you believe in the „grand scheme of things” – I mean we go to war with a certain fascination and pride, there’s no horror in it, no benevolent spirit to tell us it’s wrong. There’s got to be a way God puts all the pieces together, when all this is over. He must have a purpose and it’s not that the Russians take back Moscow or that Saynshand be destroyed. It’s more than that – it’s got to be.

And you know, as I’ve figured – I can only hope that somewhere down the road, this grand scheme of things is in fact drifting my way, even though I cannot see this right now, through all the smoke and dirt and noise.

I’ll never stop loving you.

Ivan Luluben

July 29th
To Joconde Abraham