Or was that really how it happened? For a moment I stood on the threshold of creating a back story for Ivan. Everyone likes to know who the characters are right? A head guard of the General Secretary after WWII must have had quite the array of experiences. It wouldn’t have been hard to place his half-starved, charcoal face behind what remained of a cement block house decimated by German firepower. I can see him now-quietly waiting, trying to get the most bang for his buck out of every shot. He would have been a veteran by then. The quick and the dead they say. I can see his steady hand patiently pressure that stubborn trigger of his Mosin-Nagant. It would have been the 18th of January 1943. Ivan’s hideout would have been among the remains of the fortifications at Workers’ Settlement 1, where the rest of the 123rd Rifle Division waited with bated breath in the dark winter morning hours. Since the 12th of January they had been fighting tooth and nail to break through the German siege of Leningrad. I can see him now, with apprehension looking down the cross-hairs at the thick forest in front of him. I can hear the pop pop of the rifles near him, hear the shells exploding in the nearby thicket. He knew the 372nd Rifle Brigade was close. The night before they had been a mere 2 kilometers from each other, but the fighting had gotten fiercer over the past few hours. The Germans fought like wildcats backed against a wall. Operation Spark had cost many lives already. But they were going to do it. They had stopped the German spearhead at Leningrad, and Ivan had heard by radio that they had defeated the Nazis at Stalingrad. The tide of the war was changing. And he knew it.
He peered apprehensively through the thick morning haze and gun smoke before him. He could hear shouts from the far side of the wood, at first unintelligible, but as he listened more attentively he realized he could understand. The voices on the other side were Russian. The pincer division had arrived. He sat upright, and roused his comrades. It was time for the final push. “No need to conserve ammo, let’s break the siege comrades!” Of course, it would be one more long year before they could break the siege, but the beginning of the end had come, and Ivan was right in the thick of it.