A Russian Soldier’s Prayer
This a translation of a poem that was found on a young Russian soldier killed in action in 1944. His name was Alexander Zatzepa.
Hear me, O God: never in the whole of my life have I spoken to you. But, just now, I feel like sending you my greetings. You know from my childhood on they’ve told me that you are not. I, like a fool, believed them.
I’ve never contemplated your creation. And yet, tonight, gazing up and out of my shell hole, I marvelled at the shimmering stars above me, and suddenly knew the cruelty of the lie. Will you, my God, reach your hand out to me, I wonder? But I will tell you and you will understand.
Is it not strange that light should come upon me and I see you amid this night of hell? And there is nothing else I have to say…… This though: I’m glad that I have learned to know you. At midnight we are scheduled to attack. But you are looking on and I am not afraid. The signal….: well I guess I must be going. I have been happy with you…This more I want to say: as you well know, the fighting will be cruel. And even tonight I may come knocking on your door. Although I have not been a friend to you before, still, will you let me enter now when I do come?
Why, I am crying. O God, my Lord, you see what happens to me. Tonight my eyes were opened. Farewell my God. I’m going and I’m not likely to come back. Strange is it not? But death I fear no longer.