All the beehives are plundered

[from Horse Lange's War Diaries]

In a dugout near Krashneva, September 26, 1941

[…] – Cold, restless night. Poor sleep. The bunkers are supposedly lice-ridden. Already you feel the itching. – Cold, gusts of rain. Big, sailing clouds. Constant hunger. I eat shameless amounts. In the morning our artillery on the neighboring hill shoots pointlessly over our heads at the Russians. – Around midday I go to the abandoned village of Krashneva, where our sappers gut the houses, taking planks and beams to reinforce their bunkers. The dead, ghostly magic of the houses, captivating me. The jumbled relics of past life. A cap still hangs on the peg. A string of beads on the ground. Colorful knitted bands to fasten the bast shoes. Schoolbooks (the same everywhere), family photographs, the parents, sons (trouser creases!) and daughters sit there stiffly, holding their breath in alarm. Icons in the corner, next to them the Communist posters, bright, loud and without an iota of taste. Potted plants. Two dead horses in a stall. A barn full of junk (sign of affluence!). Wild cats darting about and wailing hideously like angry household spirits. Beautiful vessels, the ancient, almost Stone-Age forms of jugs and iron pots. All the houses are missing windowpanes. The winter will snow in, the storm sweep through. – In the house gardens, where beets, cabbage, tomatoes and poppies grow, I look for onions without finding any. Birches everywhere, the village must have had an inviting look, like something described by Gogol or the author of “Adventure of a Hunter”3. – I go back, look at my watch and feel a bit uneasy. As soon as I’m over the hill and back in our ravine, the Russians shoot several heavy-caliber salvoes at Krashneva and the path I just took – aiming at the German guns that fired this morning. The shrapnel flies all the way to us. Only later do I realize how lucky I was. One becomes so jaded! Now I’m writing, barely able to read it, by the thin light of homemade wax candles. All the beehives are plundered. –

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