Stalingrad Winter


Perhaps it was the humidity generated by the Volga, perhaps it was the
wind across the steppe, but the cold of Stalingrad that winter was excruciating.
In a day the temperature would run up and down -25 Celcius degrees or more.
One morning it was -20 degrees, and then it dropped to -30 Celcius. By afternoon it
was -35 Celcius degrees. Evening brought a fall to -40 Celcius degrees and the dark of the
night it took the thermometer down to -44 Celcius. A war correspondent who later
visited Stalingrad described the intensity of the cold :
Your breath catches. If you breathe on your glove a thin film of ice
immediately forms. We couldn't eat anything because all our food, bread,
sauge, and eggs, had turned into stone. Even wearing valenki (felt boots)
and two pairs of woolen socks, you had to move your toes all the time to
keep the circulation going. Without valenki, frostbite would have been
certain, and the Germans had no valenki. To keep your hands in good
condition you had to clap half the time or play imaginary scales.
Once I took out a pencil to write down a few words. The first word was
all right , the second was written by a drunk, the last two were the scrawl
of a paralytic, quickly I blew on my purple fingers and put them back in
the lined glove.
And in this weather the German and Russian soldiers fought each other.