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Stalingrad Part 1 – A Conversation with a Pretty Book Doctor. (A travelogue with a heart to mother Russia)

Posted by intellisg on July 24, 2007

stalingrad1.jpg“There is more here than just lands at stake here, this a rassenkampf (race war), where only one can survive! We the German people are the undeniable master race. It is not enough, I tell you to just preserve our Nordic way of life! We must be able to replenish the Aryan, and pursue our policy of racial purity by eradicating the inferiors! Do not believe for one moment we are ordinary people! Ordinary people cannot accomplish our miraculous feats which speak of a great people with a greater destiny! In this short time, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland and France have all fallen and so will the city in East, far from here. The city that is the red menace of Bolshevikism that even bears the name of their corrupt leader, Stalingrad! We shall seize it in the name of the 1,000 year Reich!”

Adolf Hitler (1941)

No where else in Russia does one hear the word ‘history’ spoken with such verve as  Stalingrad – I mean Volgograd. For political reasons Stalingrad reflects the name of a controversial brutal dictator Josef Stalin, so they changed it during the 50’s. But everyone here calls it Stalingrad. I know you have all seen the stomach churning meat grinding violence of Saving Private Ryan along with the band of brothers – we know the narrative by heart – the West defeated the Nazis. Right? Nothing can be further from the truth, though historians may differ on who dealt the mortal blow that packed off Adolf Hitler and his uber Aryans to the rubbish heap of history, no one disputes, where it all happened – the beginning of the end – and in this bar South of the city, where old soldiers hang out with their medals strewn out like coins, Stalingrad will forever be the place where the tide was first turned against the invincible army of Hitler in WW II.

Its hard to imagine these days amid the sea of people, just sauntering along – mothers pushing their prams – fathers reading newspapers in parks – kids poking at carp with twigs in the central square in Volgograd – this was once the same place that saw the fiercest fighting and heroic struggles in human history. From time to time, a monument juts out proclaiming, “this was where we stood our ground!” – “enough is enough!” – “for the motherland! Urrah!” Despite the way these stone motifs regularly impose their message on the traveler’s consciousness. No where else in the world do they pale in comparison to the narrative these people hold in their hearts whenever they speak about the epic battle of Stalingrad. The mood is climatic and it’s everywhere leaching into the street, oozing out of wall papers, ever present even in the ordinariness of life. Even the hotel receptionist, a matronly type who looked as if she just retired from some KGB run gulag in Siberia – someone that has as much emotional quotient as stuffed grizzly bear is able to turn to me one evening starring with intense watery eyes intoning, “When you write about Russia, you will write about the things you ate, about and the things you saw with your eyes and hear with your ears, but  this is the only corner of Russia where you can never read, taste or hear about. You cannot see, hear or taste pain, only feel it. You don’t need this.” She looked dismissively at my Leica camera. The exchange lasted only seconds, yet it was profound enough leaving me reeling why history had etched itself so deeply into this corner of the world? That even strangers feel the need to speak about their past as if they wear it on their sleeves. One rarely hears about those sort personal dioramas in New York, Paris or even in Singapore. There everyone is bubbled, shrink wrapped and distanced from the moral turpitude, violence and decadence of the past, but never in Stalingrad –everyone is a historian.

The traveler is always reminded of the duality between two narratives —past and present – shuttling like back and forth like a train, the story of people as they turn the wheel of life everyday and the story of their past that has every right, to reach out, coloring every moment of the present – every knows their history.

Even by today’s standards, it’s impossible to imagine the scale of loss and suffering this city once witnessed – the war reduced Stalingrad’s population from 600,000 to only 18,000 – 94% of the buildings were flattened – every square foot was bombed to re-scape the city at least 6 times over! A hell that even the invading Germans referred too as ‘Rattemkrieg’ (rat warfare) where close-quarter combat in ruined buildings, bunkers, cellars and sewers possessed a savage intimacy which appalled even the most seasoned soldiers.

I don’t even have a datum to scale those terrifying losses but my Lada driving taxi driver says, someone he knows does. He fought in Stalingrad, he says, “mama can take the pain away” – standing East of the Volga River that runs through the city from North to South – the statue called Mahyearh Koorghan – Mother Russia stands like a great beacon. She towers 164 ft tall and is listed in the Guiness book of Records as the tallest free standing monument. The locals, all refer to her as ‘mama’ she is not simply a memorial, but a sort of wailing wall of Jerusalem that every Russian is expect to make the pilgrimage to try to entomb their hurts and pain. Every Russian knows of someone whose father, brother, uncle, relative died in a Stalingrad. Mama is like some great Oprah Winfrey, the great embracer, patron to those who have loved and loss and looking at her, its hard for any Russian not to believe – it was all worth it, even dying of honorable dysentery is elevated to Byzantine glory when juxtaposed against the super bowl tits of mama Russia.

She’s a mother of a mama alright!

End of part 1, to be continued tomorrow when our debonair traveler meets the pretty book doctor – Martha. Find out what their respective histories holds for them.

(The Brotherhood Press 2007 – EP 2309035 – Travelogue Series / [the identity of the author has been withheld for security reasons so as not to compromise our gaming interest with our on-going war with the Tirianians in the Kilmaron Galaxy / as a sign of respect for the sixth anniversary of the Tirianian Legislative Council / a 930 parsec (2 earth days /48 hour) truce will be observed and we will be broadcasting this article to even the Tirianians for their reading enjoyment. We wish the Tirianians and all our frontline troops in the Ostfront – happy reading – the brotherhood wishes the Tirianians happy anniversary.] – 2007. EP)


5 Responses to “Stalingrad Part 1 – A Conversation with a Pretty Book Doctor. (A travelogue with a heart to mother Russia)”

  1. As It Is. said

    A great story beautifully written about a great city of a once great nation (I believe it still is: Russia – Stalingrad and St Petersburg – my longing for reunion with my good old friends, young and old) touches the very core of my heart.

    This is the most apt and appropriate place, where it all started, brilliantly chosen at this appropriate juncture in time, to signify “The Beginning of the End” of a Golden Era that has now turned into prolonged sufferings with hypocrisy blurring the vision and self-glorification numbing the mind of a people believing themselves to be permanently invincible, perfect and the best in everything in this ever-changing world.

    Nothing is permanent in this world. At the end of the day, one has to sleep. At the end of life, one has no choice but die. At the end of an empire, it simply crumples and crumbles. At the end of time, no one can foresee whats going to happen next.

    The collective will of a people to resist, struggle and fight against a cleverly disguised tyranny, the powerful that overwhelms the weak and voiceless, the suffering silent majority, can never be brushed aside with just an old-fashioned knuckle-duster that is corroding, decaying and rusting from within and without through resting on the laurels of past track records.

    Stalingrad it was. Stalingrad it shall be!

    Unless, of course, one knows how to remain:

    AS IT IS!

  2. koalabear said

    His style comes through. I like him best like tis. I feel he is just writing to me. No one else. I like him best like tis, not when is hunted,. cornered or outnumbered and has to run like a frightened animal. I like him best when he is at his best.

    I know who wrote this.

  3. scb said

    Darkness shines!

  4. karen Mok said

    This is a very nice piece sir. When I read it, I feel as if I am there again. I have been to Volgograd and I did sense the people there were very proud of their history etc. I wonder sir, which part of Russia do you like the most? Do elaborate.

    When I was in Russia, I found personal security an issue despite travelling with three burly men, we were still confronted on numerous occasions. Sometimes its not unusual for this to happen in broad daylight bfr whole groups of people as if its the most natural thing in the world.

    I wonder how do you deal with it? The reason why I am asking is bfr my work regularly takes me to many developing countries around the world and as a woman, I am always mindful of personal security. I find it can be a pain sometimes when one has to think 10 times before mounting a crowded bus only because one happens to be a woman.

    Do share.

    Very interesting and when I read slowly, it seems I can even go into your mind and for a while see the world through it even – Fascinating!

  5. juimanji said

    Hummer Says:
    August 1st, 2007 at 12:19 pm
    IHateTheBrotherhood Says:

    “Time for the good men of the Internet to stomp out these sissies !”

    I happened to save this on another site / The whole thread infact which I forwarded to both Aurora and the Chroniclers office.

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