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Thus Toņa had someplace to go and spend some of her

time. Other girls from Zvanki ran around the grove meeting

up with boys, but Toņa went to the oak. She picked flowers,

made wreaths and brought them for her hero. She made up

his life story. How he took his first steps on a cold floor and

stood in the twilight of the room, stick-straight, surprising

and delighting his parents. What he’d dreamt of. His first

friend, his first pair of woollen dress pants. His first

snowfall. She could see it all so clearly that in the end she

almost believed she could feel his hands on her waist at his

first waltz, before his fingers flooded with silt from the


She even went there in May, when the news reached the

village that the war had ended. People hugged each other in

joy, drank and celebrated. Toņa sat by her hero and

wallowed in the strange sadness that coursed through her

veins. Did he even know this day had finally come? Who

was going to tell him? So Toņa got down on her knees in

the Madaliņa church and prayed, asked the Blessed Virgin

to tell her hero, if she saw him in Heaven, that the war was

over. And to tell him hello from Toņa.

In the summer Toņa turned 16, chekists travelled around

the area, exhuming soldiers’ bodies to be reburied in the

Brothers’ Cemetery; they asked people to inform them if

they’d found any of the Great Fatherland’s fallen war

heroes. Ludvigs thought what they were doing was good,

the right thing, and directed them to the oak, even though