Dear Mother, I won’t be coming home for Christmas this year. There is much work to be done for the task at hand yet I fully remembered your adamant demand. So I asked my superiors for leave even just for a day or two. They said, no, empathetically once, and firmly twice, tell me mother should I ask them thrice? There is nowhere I would rather be but by your side on Christmas night, but tell me, if I were, then who would be left to fight? You taught me to be brave and do my duty to my country. This is where it has led me and this is where I must stay till victory day. Dear mother, don’t worry, I will be home by next Christmas.
Dear Sister, I won’t be coming home for Christmas this year. This city, Stalingrad, is dark and grim, a city of hardened men. The air is heavy with the sound of firing guns and the cries of the wounded. There is no beauty here, no hint of happiness, and no sign of laughter. There are thousands of us, and millions of them, a seemingly endless dark horde undaunted by bullet or bayonet. At night, we sit around a fire, gazing into its depths with hollow eyes, travelling in our minds to better times. In the morning, we stamp it out and return to reality. The winter is already here. A greater foe than our foe. Guns jam into useless clubs, food freezes before reaching the mouth and carelessly exposed limbs become a death sentence. And yet we remain obedient soldiers to the man and fight on, in defence of our families, in defence of our fatherland. Dearest Sister, comfort our mother and tell her I will be home by next Christmas.
Dearest Wife. With whom I have spent more time apart than close. Who in my mind has become the manifestation of everything I fight for, how do I tell you I won’t be coming home? I won’t be coming home, darling, now or ever, my bones tell me they will rot here forever. We are trapped like rats and starving like dogs, forced to fight in a war we never called our own. I want you to know that I would give anything to change the course of your life to have you marry the man who ended up behind a desk rather than the man forced to go fight.
Promise your dying husband, wife, that when our children grow mature of mind and they ask what happened to their father, tell them the truth. Tell them I fought for them and for our great country but not for the tyrants who drove it to war. Teach them of things that I should have taught them, of love and honour, of bravery and sacrifice. Tell them that the ordinary German soldier was no monster; tell them not to hang their head in shame at the memory of their father. I am sorry that I leave you burdened with my burdens. I am sorry that I leave countless promises unfulfilled and only offer hollow words as consolation. I am sorry I never told you how much you meant to me, I am sorry I left you alone, I am sorry I never came back home.
Dedicated to the Unknown German Soldier-Stalingrad (1942-43)
Makarand is a final year undergraduate (as of 2011) in Commerce at Ramjas College, University of Delhi. He writes extensively on socio- political issues in India and abroad. He plans to pursue MBA after his graduation.