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Arkady Mankov

Worked in State Public Library. In 1940 graduated from the faculty of history at Leningrad State University. A year after being enrolled in graduate school he was drafted into the army.

Arkady Mankov

Worked in State Public Library. In 1940 graduated from the faculty of history at Leningrad State University. A year after being enrolled in graduate school he was drafted into the army.

When the platoon took up combat positions, I went to the very edge of the forest for reconnaissance. What did I see? Beyond the forest was Estonian land - a treeless field, not steeply descending into a hollow. Very close to me was a tall wooden tower, on top of which, with its back to us, sat an Estonian soldier with a rifle and dangled his feet. Not far from him, a peasant was plowing his land. And it's all. I stood in perplexity, asking myself: who are we here to fight? We stayed in the trench in this semi-combat posiiton. In the afternoon, it was reported that our regular units, in coordination with the Estonian government, had entered Estonia.

Command announced that, in light of the current international situation, the Soviet government is in talks with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in order to sign agreements on mutual assistance. To avoid any potential complications, the government has made the decision to concentrate Soviet troops on the borders. My mood worsened immediately. It’s clear now that there might be war.

We have already had our third company commander in this short period. Now it is a young lieutenant, he is tall with a round face and a smart smile with thin, red lips. We grew close quickly. He is quite well read, knows a little bit about history and likes academic conversations. He is straightforward, simple and smart, he is immediately noticeable against the greyness of  the others like him.

Our troops have entered Poland. This confused everything in my head for a moment. Of course, the goal is a worthy one, “to save our brothers”… But what about the pact with the Germans? Everyone is thinking about the same question: will this not be a violation of the pact? 

We will set aside the official version …


I met two Red Army engineers. One is short, weak, with a round, small intellectual face. He talks a lot, quickly, with an independent-sounding tone and is quick to judge. But misery is heard in this tone — both physical and moral, which he feels here. He makes fun of his bestial existence and somehow he swears exquisitely. He shares the same name with Mayakovsky — Vladimir Vladimirovich. He is married to a film director, and he himself is a film engineer, an artist and something else. The other is of medium height, with a full head of brown hair and kind eyes. He is a technician. He is ruder and simpler. He also swears a lot, but not so elegantly as his friend, and he dreams aloud of when he will be able to get undressed and lie down in a bed like a civilized person. Here they sleep on straw in a hut without taking their clothes off.

The village is large, meandering, in two settlements, along the shore of a deep, little river. The locals fish. Actually, they live here properly, almost all of them are in the collective farm. There are only a few men. Most have been arrested for their former ties abroad. There are almost only “widows” left in the village. This, it would appear, has left its own mark. If inside the houses everything is always clean and tidy, then in the village — fences are falling apart, bridges are rotting, there are broken carts and sledges…

We made huts. Long ones, by platoon, for 55 people. Here is an old pine forest, sand. It is a high, healthy place, it’s clean, the air is nice…

The battalion is formed. We moved towards the border at night. We arrived at sunrise. The last kilometres I could barely feel my legs. When we arrived at our destination we settled in the forest. When the sun warmed us, I slept. We spent the night in camping tents. 

They appointed me platoon commander of 9th company.

I waited for the night. They didn’t come. Early in the morning, I got dressed and prepared to slip away in advance. At the entrance, I ran into an old man. He had the draft orders in his hands. 

— Sign and report immediately. 

That’s it. Several things came to mind at once: “University. The final year. The state exam. My thesis. And now…” I didn’t want it. I bit my lips, had some food, and left. They sent me to Krasnoye Selo. I received my orders to Ust-Luga. 

The train was full of new conscripts. There were hardly any drunks, as wine wasn’t for sale. But everything in the wagon gaggled, swore and screamed. And it was somehow strange to think that this crazy mob would tomorrow be uniform and will turn around, obeying the voice giving orders, holding hands at the seams.

We arrived at midnight. We lay down to sleep on stools.

Mobilisation has begun. People were woken at night and pulled from their beds, taken from their workplaces in whatever they were wearing. 

Several of our students have already received draft orders. 

At home I learned that they came for me.


War! There it is, long-awaited (extending his arms fitfully). Well then — without shoes, hungry, we will go to fight. In fact, what am I saying — they will clothe us and feed us. We are hungry here, and there we will be full. 

Everyone is in a state of nervously awaiting major events. Just like in a thunderstorm. 


A non-aggression pact has been concluded with the Germans. Events are taking an unexpected turn.

I am reading Kyukhlya… He is 22 years old, and already how much he has accomplished: he has been published, he is working, he spends time with the magnificent literary society, he loves and caresses (admittedly, alongside others as well) an incredible woman. And me? I am 26 years old, and my past is empty…

I was unexpectedly able to buy some trousers. The material is fine, but they are too short. Nevertheless, I bought them. I paid 250 roubles and took them to the tailor to have them lengthened, as much as is possible.