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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.
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Dear Jo,

I was wounded by a shrapnel from a stray missile. There’s no pain, due to the anesthetic contained in the express bandage, but I can’t feel my right leg. I can barely walk – fortunately we are still hiding, so I spend my time on the watch mostly.

Almost two months passed since the assault on Moscow, but neither side has yet gathered enough strength and courage to mount another offensive. It feels funny – to take all the heat of the battlefield and survive without a scratch and then take a hit from thin air, because it was just your time to take a hit. But no matter, I was lucky – almost half a million people died at Moscow and around. When it was over, I felt a small victory, my own victory – being alive.
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My dear Jo,

The world is still turning, after yesterday’s assault – it snows with rare, small, icy flakes, and it is cold. It helps to look up, at the gray clouds and the columns of thick smoke, waving in the wind like the sails of a ship.
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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.

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My good Nel Jia,

I am well and happy to write to you again after so long. It’s raining hard in Moscow, and it’s windy and cold. But I am home. It warmed my heart to see the cherry trees in the University Park still standing, untouched by the war. Nel Jia, my greatest wish now is that we can push them back and take Moscow before the next May, so I can walk with you among the blooming cherry trees! If I were a great painter, an impressionist, I would spend my life on a single painting – you, lying on the grass filled with petals, under the cherry trees of the University Park, in May. Oh, could life itself ever stay still, like that painting?
We are holed up in an old bunker on the „Zhukov” defense line that was supposed to hold off the invaders when they came, eight months ago. They don’t know we’re here, but I’m running each day to an abandoned telegraph station on Zemlinskaya Street and I wire reports to the command unit. The idiots didn’t bother to cut the lines.
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My gentle, beautiful Nel Jia,

I hope you are well and not too upset about me, the war and this whole mess of a world. I know it must sound quite absurd, but sometimes I wish you were here, with me, in the front line, dodging shells and running wild and dropping to the ground when things explode all over. And laughing out loud, and roaring like a savage animal, and unleashing that unstoppable feeling, the assault, the wonderful strength that fills our veins and makes us human. Godly human.
You see, I realized something the other day. I am carrying a final letter for you in my backpack. So, if I don’t make it, you will receive my confession, the account of my life, my love for you and the things that made me worthy of your love. But by that time there will be nothing left for me – and in my selfishness and vanity, I am longing for a piece of you near me, to have and to hold, to look at before my fleeting life ends.
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My love,

I miss you. I haven’t missed you so hard before, because I was so concentrated to stay alive, to do my job… To kill…
It has been a month now since I have been parachuted near Saynshand. We haven’t seen any fighting for the last week, since the bomb was dropped on the city. The remaining forces of the enemy have been cut off by our third army.
Yuri died yesterday, of the chest wound he got during the fights at the city limits. Our improvised medic couldn’t to anything for him, except soak his veins with morphine. Yuri was the youngest in our unit, 19 years old.
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Dear Nel Jia,

I keep remembering wild, unconnected images of you. They flash in my eyes when the sky lights up with flares. I remember the day we spent in Chengdu, high on the mountains, the fruits with jelly we ate at the summit, the summit itself in all its glory, with us on top of the world, looking down on the gorges and the cliffs and the creeks and the clouds. There we were, touching the sky and talking philosophy, religion, about life and about death.

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My dear Nel Jia,

I love you. I have had the chance only so rarely to tell you and I think that once I return, I will hate this war if only for this reason: so much time has passed and you haven’t heard these words from me. I went into the foxhole to catch some sleep yesterday morning and I realized how gentle and precise my whole body was moving, so I don’t wake the other two who were asleep. I realized how many wonderful gestures and touches and caresses are somehow, by a divine gift, sheltered in me – and now they are wasted because I am here to crush and to obliterate, instead of giving happiness and pleasure.
We’ve held our position near Saynshand, but we lost more than half of our men. We were ordered to retreat to the forest until the third army tank divisions arrive. I’m the last scout alive in our unit, so I’ll go alone into town tomorrow to zero in a tactical nuclear strike.

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Dearest Nel Jia,

I had two days of calm before I was airdropped near Saynshand. Vassily died a few feet away from me – a bomb shell from the city limits artillery. I thought – we always hide behind probabilities, we say it’s unlikely to be hit by a bus in Petersburg, or by a brick falling from a roof, that only one in a million would suffer such things. But out here, it’s not one in a million, it’s one in ten, and we’re those ten.

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