I can’t stop gawking at this photo: “Female snipers of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army. Bottom Row, left to right: 20, 80, and 83 confirmed kills. Second row: 24, 79, 70. Third row: 70, 89, 89, 83. Top row: 64 and 24 confirmed kills. Germany, May 4, 1945.” So that’s 775 confirmed kills amongst these 12 women, which should tell you all you need to know about the wisdom of invading Russia. A few other things: these women do not look especially traumatized by their experience, which could be due to the fact that the picture was taken only a few days before Germany surrendered, or to the fact that these formidable women were fighting in the purest sense that one can: to defend their families and their homeland from a brutal and unprovoked foreign invasion. If ever there was a time to take up arms and fight to the death, it was then, in that place, by those people.
The German invasion of Belarus was the subject of the most powerful and affecting movie I’ve ever seen: Elem Klimov’s Come and See. The title derives from the Book of Revelations: “And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” (Chapter 6, verses 7-8) The film depicts the brutality and senselessness of the war as seen through the eyes of a Belorussian boy, Flyora, who attempts to join the partisans fighting the Germans after his family is murdered. The boy, Aleksei Kravchenko, was not an actor, and this, along with the fact that the film was shot in chronological order, allows one to actually observe the effect of the war on this child’s face. It truly is an astounding achievement. The film ends with a merciless 30 minute sequence in which and entire village is massacred; it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen or hope to see again. I’m not even sure that I’m necessarily recommending the film, though I’m grateful that it exists. The director never made another movie after this one, and it’s not difficult to see why.