The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (tr. Pevear & Volokhonsky)

a nutshell: a history book like no other, Alexievich seeks out & shares voices of Soviet women who lived WW2 on front lines, the home front & in occupied territories; their stories are utterly crushing, occasionally joyous, fixedly unforgettable 

a line: “Give her a man’s haircut.” “But she’s a woman.” “No, she’s a soldier. She’ll be a woman again after the war”

an image: a medical assistant remembers the death of a soldier she loved and her surprise at realising the others knew she loved him – she recalls smiling with hope that he too knew it, and her first ever kiss is a goodbye kiss at his burial

a thought: many testimonies are from women who were just 16 or 17 when they joined the war effort; some even talk of having “grown” – physically – in the field

a fact: over 500,000 Soviet women participated on a par with men in WW2

 

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