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Bruno is dead
. . .
The conquest of Petrozavodsk, a great goal to which the speech always turned using various fantasies, had proved elusive. The offensive turned into a bloody retreat; the Sulazhgora Heights, the real key to the city, was too heavily fortified and the enemy had superiority in every direction. Weeks passed, we couldn’t move forward.
Then came the rumor. It crept into our ranks, from somewhere, somehow, secretly, tenderly. It raised its head in the middle of the whispering crowd. The Command tried to kill it. But it didn’t fall silent. It grew day by day, it got many heads, it became a monster, a ghost whose presence everyone felt, everyone shuddered. It was the rumor that the Southern front was breaking up. It was also the rumor that the enemy was rapidly advancing behind our backs from the south, to cut off our road to Finland.
In those days, our company (or part of it) kept a field guard along a small river whose name I no longer remember. Service was heavy, equipment was double, food was in name only; it rained and our huts were flimsy. Poor days.
I had been in the post for a couple of hours, listening to the thump of the cannon, the squeaking and whistling of shells, the crackle of the trees, and the falling of unexploded shells. The artillery fire was frightening; each shell seemed to come straight towards the listener… Then Bruuno walked past my post with another guy. "Where are you going?" – "To patrol." – "Ruskies are angry today." – "They may attack soon. Take care!" – "Take care!" And he went to the north along the river bank, to the gathering place of the patrol leaving from the Vidany Village. Shells floated in the air over our heads again, aimed at at the Vidany Village. There was also a rifle fire from the north. It was unusual. Bruno… Bruno… How is Bruno? After a long, long time, Bruno's comrade from the patrol came back running. He shouted to me in passing: "Ruskies tricked us! They were in a chain around the meadow. They let us enter into the meadow, then they started shooting. Bruuno stayed there…"
. . .