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But I managed to survive somehow. Yet all my belongings, which were in two suitcases, I had to leave them behind, including all the photos and the kerchiefs that you had given to me as presents. Only in his 1lth letter to her did he report hearing his first news from her. On a basic level, letters from the front of the Soviet-German war reveal the catastrophic impact of the war as it cut into civilian life, tore family members and lovers apart, and sent millions of soldiers and civilians into contexts of extreme violence and destruction. Even the disclaimer that Vitalii, along with countless other correspondents from the front, kept rehearsing in his letters--"I am alive, healthy, and safe"--bespoke the ubiquitous presence of death in this soldier's life.

In later letters he would modulate the phrase in telling ways: "I am still alive, healthy.

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On both sides of the front, the war--which Germans referred to as the "War in the East," while Soviet leaders were quick to call it the "Great Patriotic War," in analogy to the Patriotic War of that ended with the rout of Napoleon's Grande Armee--induced a massive urge to communicate in writing, and it made both regimes invest heavily in the deployment of communication services.

An estimated 40 billion pieces of mail circulated between the front and the rear in Germany and German-occupied territory between and In , when the flow of mail reached its peak, the German military courier Feldpost services shipped an average of 25 million letters, postcards, and parcels per day. In Germany, the Feldpost system formally came into being on 2 September , the day after Germany invaded Poland.

In the Soviet Union, the military did not assume institutional patronage of postal services until During the first months of the war in particular, when the rapidly advancing Germans forced the Red Army into a hasty retreat, marred by losses of life and equipment of the highest magnitude, Soviet postal communication was severely disrupted.

An unknown error has occurred. Pickering By courtesy of Mr. Francis Edwards, Mrs. Pitt, and Mr. Lionel Jacob E. Polack By courtesy of the Rev. Polack and the Rev. Stern, C. Pollard By courtesy of Dr. Pollard and Lady Hughes J. Rapoport By courtesy of Mr. Spencer Hurst W. Ratcliffe By courtesy of Mr. Rooper By courtesy of Mrs.

Rooper and Mr. Spencer Hurst I. Sanders From " A Soldier of England. Robert Dinwiddie and Lady Sanders I.

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    Schoolmaster and writer. Killed in action, France, 23 March, , at the age of I saw about 50 German prisoners marched through the village. Three officers were in front—white, broken, muddy, and one of them wounded. Most of the men were very boyish and intelligent looking, but one officer, who looked about 20, was one of the noblest looking men I have ever seen. He held his head up and looked so proud that I could have wept.

    War is indescribably disgusting. Any man who has seen it and praises it is degenerate. I had a long time to think, by myself, on that fatigue job—under the stars, and please God I'll live to put some of it in print, one day, but I can't write it in a letter. The rats interrupted me. They are fat and grey and bold.

    One came and looked at me and squealed at about 3 o'clock in the morning when I could see no prospect of going to bed ever, and so infuriated me that I slashed at him with my stick and splashed my whole face so with mud that I had to spend the next hour or so trying to get a lump of it out of my eye.

    I missed the rat, and imagined him with a paw to his horrible nose— laughing at me.

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    There's a subject for Charlie's pencil. Well that's all the news, darling. As to my own feelings under fire, I was horribly afraid—sick with fear—not of being hit, but of seeing other people torn, in the way that high explosive tears. It is simply hellish. But thank God I didn't show any funk. That's all a man dare ask, I think. I don't care a flip whether I'm killed or not—though I don't think I shall be—the chances are about to 1.

    Out here you must trust yourself to a bigger Power and leave it at that. You can't face death I've used the phrase myself all this war. There's no facing it. It's everywhere. You like to walk through it, and under it and over it and past it. Without the sense of God taking up the souls out of those poor torn bodies—even though they've died cursing Him —I think one would go mad.

    Someday I'm going to write a ' paper ' on the ' psychology of the cigarette It fills the place in a man's life, out here, which the snuff box held with the old French aristocrat. It helps a man go to his death with a brave hypocrisy of carelessness, just as it helped the aristocrat to go daintily to the guillotine. But I can't enlarge on it here. I'm writing in a trench not very far from the Germans and I've just heard the fn cuckoo! It's blazing sunlight.

    Behind, there is a French I town—quivering in the heat—chimneys and roofs apparently intact from here, though the whole place in reality is a mere husk of a town. Nearer, between the town and us, is a village, which is quite a ruin—its church spire a broken stump, its house walls honeycombed with shell fire. Then comes a great blazing belt of yellow flowers—a sort of mustard or sharlock—smelling to heaven like incense, in the sun—and above it all are larks. Then a bare field strewn with barbed wire—rusted to a sort of Titian red—out of which a hare came just now, and sat up with fear in his eyes and the sun shining red through his ears.

    Then the trench. An indescribable mingling of the artificial with the natural. Piled earth with groundsel and great flaming dandelions, and chickweed, and pimpernels, running riot over it.

    click Decayed sandbags, new sandbags, boards, dropped ammunition, empty tins, corrugated iron, a smell of boots, and stagnant water and burnt powder and oil and men, the occasional bang of a rifle, and the click of a bolt, the occasional crack of a bullet coming over, or the wailing diminuendo of a ricochet. And over everything the larks and a blessed bee or two. And far more often, very high up in the blue—a little resolute whitish-yellow fly of an aeroplane—watching, watching—speaking, probably, by wireless to the hidden stations behind the lines ; dropping, when he thinks fit, a sort of thunderous death on to the green earth under him ; moving with a sort of triumphant calm through the tiny snow-white puffs of shrapnel round him.

    And on the other side, nothing but a mud wall, with a few dandelions against the sky, until you look over the top, or through a periscope, and then you see barbed wire and more barbed wire, and then fields with larks over them, and then barbed wire again—German wire this time—and a long wavy line of mud and sandbags—the German line —which is being watched all day from end to end with eyes which hardly wink.