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[These sayings on war and peace were set down by Madame Fedorchenko, a Russian nurse, from talks which she overheard among Russian soldiers at the front in 1915, 1916, and 1917. From a large amount of material they are selected, translated, and arranged. These detached utterances of wounded soldiers, many of whom could neither read nor write, lying in their cots, were spoken without premeditation or thought of the nurse's presence. Beyond translation, they are printed absolutely without change. Foreshadowing the inevitableness of events, they seem to penetrate the mystery of Russian character.-THOMAS WHITTEMORE.]
WAR, war! To some expected, unexpected to others. Many a man is unready, unprepared, body and soul. The crude gray forces were driven forth, to be the laughing-stock of the nations, with nothing made clear to them; on the principle evidently that, having lived miserably so far, they might as well die for no reason they knew. Straw was good enough for us Russians to fight the Germans with.
By the wish of Wilhelm, by the order of Antichrist, war has been let loose over the world. War has eaten the corn in the land, and war has cut down nations by their roots. From the beginning of time there has been nothing like it. War is more dreadful than thunder, it is sharper than lightning, and is not more merciful than the wrath of God.
A cloud has gathered amid the clear day; war has come amid the Russian people. The women weep, and the girls, and the little children; the old men brood and swear.
At first, when they took us, seven
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teen of us, from our village, we knew nothing, only just felt bad. At every station we raised a row and swore at the girls, and we sang all the way; but we were homesick all the same. Then they began to drill us, and to some purpose, inasmuch as we even fell off in flesh. And they treated us most contemptuously, just as if we had been fools. Yet we were by no means fools. We all were used to farm-work, every mother's son of us. I worked under my father, and he was very strict. The only free time I had was when I worked at a factory for four months. On my way here I cried right along; I felt I was taking leave of life. Mother has been dead these fifteen years, yet I kept moaning, 'Mother, mother!' as I cried.
Our mother sent for us all. I came from the factory, and these were her words: 'Live, my son, long; but live so that your life may not seem long to anyone else.'
I used to attend to a garden. My father was a gardener, and my grandfather also. They were good gardeners.
My grandfather learned gardening abroad, and my mother was a gardener's daughter. That is why I am such a soft fellow. From our earliest age we have never seen blood, and. have enjoyed flowers, but at the war we live only with worms and beetles. They dug me up by the roots from my garden, like an old pear tree: What sort of a soldier am I?
I was taken to the war as a chauffeur. I had always, from a child, had a knack for machinery, and in Belgium I learned all aboift motors. I drove my man right up to the Germans. By the side of us rode cavalry in helmets; they charged, hewing right and left. And Gregory, before the Lord, I am not lying, after wounding a man, seized him by the collar, threw him down under his feet, and kicked him and stamped on him, till he gave up the ghost. I met Gregory after that, and I shamed him. 'You a democrat? No, but a vile hound, that's what you are! Is that what you were taught in Belgium? A German is a man all the same, and you handled him worse than a rat.' He wanted to fight me, he was so ashamed of himself.
I had but a brief spell of good living. Mostly I lived miserably. And now I have risen. I have become an important man. And I laugh at everything. I stopped believing in God while I was still a shepherd boy. I said, 'I do not believe; strike me!' There was a great thunderstorm; but He did not strike me. I never particularly cared for life, and did not particularly thank papa and mamma for the gift. But now that they need us for the war, they call us 'brothers,' and 'boys,' and 'dear children.'
Whose is the blame? Who can be reproached with the sin? If we only knew that, if we knew! Is it the Germans, is
it the Pagans, is it the Austrians, or the Bulgarians? One's soul has been sold, and no man is guilty of the war. War itself has come from the other world, and war itself will finish itself.
I am learning everything afresh. The Lord, the Son of God, said, 'Do not kill.' That means, Kill, without mercy! Love your neighbor as yourself,' means, Take his last crust; and if he will not give it quietly, hit him with an axe. It was said, 'Do not defile your mouth with unclean words'; but here, Sing vile songs about your mother, to make it merrier for your souls! In a word, grow wolves' teeth for yourselves, and if it is too late and they won't grow, here is a bayonet for you, and cannon, to bite your neighbor under his ribs. But to make a real soldier of me, my back must yet be flogged with whips.
I hate the enemy so, I dream of him at night. I dream I am lying on top of a German, a sturdy fellow, and he won't get killed. I reach out for my bayonet and he takes hold of my hand. I cannot overcome him. I stick my fingers in his eyes, trying to make a hole right through to his brain. At last I find the way! And I am so glad, my very blood boils with joy.
Here you kill a man and get praised for it. Only you don't draw any pleasure from that. What can be worse than taking life? And if you do, you know that you do a forbidden thing. You feel much better if your conscience torments you. If you pay the whole price for your sin, it is gone.
In times of war miracles happen even to the like of us. How that is, I don't know. My feet gave out; I lagged behind and lay down for a brief rest in a ditch. I thought, "They must pass here,