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oaring, rumbling, booming, droning.

– Toņa! You asleep?

Toņa isn’t asleep, she’s reading

Soviet Youth

, she wants to

have a purpose. She wants to belong to those whose hearts

are free of worry and whose minds are free of doubt. To

those who are brave, fearless. The Amur, the Dnieper, the

Don, roaring. Leningrad. Lādoga Lake, 125 grams of bread,

bombs exploding. Stalingrad. Komsomolsk, by the Volga.

The pounding of jackhammers, the flaming sparks of arc

welders, towering cranes. Reinforcers and fitters, cylinders

and scarlet fires, wads of cotton, the blue glow of a

searchlight, booming, roaring.

Toņa. Toņa.

The Daugava is covered in snow. Toņa is on this side of it.

And Dunava parish is on the other. A cropped sheepskin

coat, an oil lamp. Toņa reads “the Komsomol brigade has

started ploughing.” The wick crackles, the clock ticks. It’s

night, the 4


of April. The ice in the Daugava splinters,

groans. The oil burns up, the light flickers until it goes out.

Toņa sighs, pulls on the sheepskin coat and lies down.

– Toņa! Toņa! Tickle me! Her sister’s son, Jukums, crawls

into bed beside her.