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Pary One Chapter 7

For a whole week the town, belted with trenches and enmeshed in barbed-wire entanglements,went to sleep at night and woke up in the morning to the pounding of guns and the rattle of rifle fire. Only in the small hours would the din subside, and even then the silence would be shattered from time to time by bursts of fire as the outposts probed out each other. At dawn men busied themselves around the battery at the railway station. The black snout of a gun belched savagely and the men hastened to feed it another portion of steel and explosive. Each time a gunner pulled at a lanyard the earth trembled underfoot. Three versts from town the shells whined over the village occupied by the Reds, drowning out all other sounds, and sending up geysers of earth.
The Red battery was stationed on the grounds of an old Polish monastery standing on a high hill in the centre of the village.
The Military Commissar of the battery, Comrade Zamostin, leapt to his feet. He had been sleeping with his head resting on the trail of a gun. Now, tightening his belt with the heavy Mauser attached to it, he listened to the flight of the shell and waited for the explosion. Then the courtyard echoed to his resonant voice.
"Time to get up, Comrades!"
The gun crews slept beside their guns, and they were on their feet as quickly as the Commissar.
All but Sidorchuk, who raised his head reluctantly and looked around with sleep-heavy eyes.
"The swine—hardly light yet and they're at it again. Just out of spite, the bastards!"
Zamostin laughed.
"Unsocial elements, Sidorchuk, that's what they are. They don't care whether you want to sleep or not."
The artilleryman grumblingly roused himself.
A few minutes later the guns in the monastery yard were in action and shells were exploding in the town.
On a platform of planks rigged up on top of the tall smoke stack of the sugar refinery squatted a Petlyura officer and a telephonist. They had climbed up the iron ladder inside the chimney.
From this vantage point they directed the fire of their artillery. Through their field glasses they could see every movement made by the Red troops besieging the town.

Today the Bolsheviks were particularly active. An armoured train was slowly edging in on the Podolsk Station, keeping up an incessant fire as it came. Beyond it the attack lines of the infantry could be seen. Several times the Red forces tried to take the town by storm, but the Petlyura troops were firmly entrenched on the approaches. The trenches erupted a squall of fire, filling the air with a maddening din which mounted to an unintermittent roar, reaching its highest pitch during the attacks. Swept by this leaden hailstorm, unable to stand the inhuman strain, the Bolshevik lines fell back, leaving motionless bodies behind on the field.
Today the blows delivered at the town were more persistent and more frequent than before. The air quivered from the reverberations of the gunfire. From the height of the smoke stack you could see the steadily advancing Bolshevik lines, the men throwing themselves on the ground only to rise again and press irresistibly forward. Now they had all but taken the station. The Petlyura division's available reserves were sent into action, but they could not close the breach driven in their positions.

Filled with a desperate resolve, the Bolshevik attack lines spilled into the streets adjoining the station, whose defenders, the third regiment of the Petlyura division, routed from their last positions in the gardens and orchards at the edge of the town by a brief but terrible thrust, scattered into the town. Before they could recover enough to make a new stand, the Red Army men poured into the streets, sweeping away in bayonet charges the Petlyura pickets left behind to cover the retreat.
Nothing could induce Sergei Bruzzhak to stay down in the basement where his family and the nearest neighbours had taken refuge. And in spite of his mother's entreaties be climbed out of the chilly cellar. An armoured car with the name Sagaidachny on its side clattered past the house, firing wildly as it went. Behind it ran panic-stricken Petlyura men in complete disorder. One of them slipped into Sergei's yard, where with feverish haste he tore off his cartridge belt, helmet and rifle and then vaulted over the fence and disappeared in the kitchen gardens beyond. Sergei looked out into the street. Petlyura soldiers were running down the road leading to the Southwestern Station, their retreat covered by an armoured car. The highway leading to town was deserted. Then a Red Army man dashed into sight. He threw himself down on the ground and began firing down the road. A second and a third Red Army man came into sight behind him. . . . Sergei watched them coming, crouching down and firing as they ran. A bronzed Chinese with bloodshot eyes, clad in an undershirt and girded with machine-gun belts, was running full height, a grenade in each hand. And ahead of them all came a Red Army man, hardly more than a boy, with a light machine gun. The advance guard of the Red Army had entered the town. Sergei, wild with joy, dashed out onto the road and shouted as loud as he could:
"Long live the comrades!"
So unexpectedly did he rush out that the Chinese all but knocked him off his feet. The latter was about to turn on him, but the exultation on Sergei's face stayed him.
"Where is Petlyura?" the Chinese shouted at him, panting heavily.
But Sergei did not hear him. He ran back into the yard, picked up the cartridge belt and rifle abandoned by the Petlyura man and hurried after the Red Army men. They did not notice him until they had stormed the Southwestern Station. Here, after cutting off several trainloads of munitions and supplies and hurling the enemy into the woods, they stopped to rest and regroup.
The young machine gunner came over to Sergei and asked in surprise:
"Where are you from, Comrade?"
"I'm from this town. I've been waiting for you to come."
Sergei was soon surrounded by Red Army men.
"I know him," the Chinese said in broken Russian. "He yelled 'Long live comrades!' He Bolshevik, he with us, a good fellow!" he added with a broad smile, slapping Sergei on the shoulder approvingly.
Sergei's heart leapt with joy. He had been accepted at once, accepted as one of them. And togetherwith them he had taken the station in a bayonet charge.
The town bestirred itself. The townsfolk, exhausted by their ordeal, emerged from the cellars and basements and came out to the front gates to see the Red Army units enter the town. Thus it was that Sergei's mother and his sister Valya saw Sergei marching along with the others in the ranks of the Red Army men. He was hatless, but girded with a cartridge belt and with a rifle slung over his shoulder.
Antonina Vasilievna threw up her hands in indignation.
So her Seryozha had got mixed up in the fight. He would pay for this! Fancy him parading with a rifle in front of the whole town! There was bound to be trouble later on. Antonina Vasilievna could no longer restrain herself:
"Seryozha, come home this minute!" she shouted. "I'll show you how to behave, you scamp! I'll teach you to fight!" And at that she marched out to the road with the firm intention of bringing her son back.
But this time her Seryozha, her boy whose ears she had so often boxed, looked sternly at his mother, his face burning with shame and anger as he snapped at her: "Stop shouting! I'm staying where I am." And he marched past without stopping.
Antonina Vasilievna was beside herself with anger.
"So that's how you treat your mother! Don't you dare come home after this!"
"I won't!" Sergei cried, without turning around.
Antonina Vasilievna stood speechless on the road staring after him, while the ranks of weather beaten, dust-covered fighting men trudged past.
"Don't cry, mother! We'll make your laddie a commissar," a strong, jovial voice rang out. A roar of good-natured laughter ran through the platoon. Up at the head of the company voices struck up in unison:

Comrades, the bugles are sounding,
Shoulder your arms for the fray.
On to the kingdom of liberty
Boldly shall we fight our way. . . .

The ranks joined in a mighty chorus and Sergei's ringing voice merged in the swelling melody. He had found a new family. One bayonet in it was his, Sergei's.
On the gates of the Leszczinski house hung a strip of white cardboard with the brief inscription:
"Revcom." Beside it was an arresting poster of a Red Army man looking into your eyes and pointing his finger straight at you over the words: "Have you joined the Red Army?"
The Political Department people had been at work during the night putting up these posters all over the town. Nearby hung the Revolutionary Committee's first proclamation to the toiling population of Shepetovka:

"Comrades! The proletarian troops have taken this town. Soviet power has been restored. We call on you to maintain order. The bloody cutthroats have been thrown back, but if you want them never to return, if you want to see them destroyed once and for all, join the ranks of the Red Army. Give all your support to the power of the working folk. Military authority in this town is in
the hands of the chief of the garrison. Civilian affairs will be administered by the Revolutionary Committee.
"Signed: Dolinnik "Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee."
People of a new sort appeared in the Leszczinski house. The word "comrade", for which only yesterday people had paid with their life, was now heard on all sides. That indescribably moving word, "comrade"!
For Dolinnik there was no sleep or rest these days. The joiner was busy establishing revolutionary government.
In a small room on the door of which hung a slip of paper with the pencilled words "Party Committee" sat Comrade Ignatieva, calm and imperturbable as always. The Political Department entrusted her and Dolinnik with the task of setting up the organs of Soviet power.
One more day and office workers were seated at desks and a typewriter was clicking busily. A Commissariat of Supplies was organised under nervous, dynamic Tyzycki. Now that Soviet power was firmly established in the town, Tyzycki, formerly a mechanic's helper at the local sugar refinery, proceeded with grim determination to wage war on the bosses of the sugar refinery who, nursing a bitter hatred for the Bolsheviks, were lying low and biding their time.
At a meeting of the refinery workers he summed up the situation in harsh, unrelenting terms.
"The past is gone never to return," he declared, speaking in Polish and banging his fist on the edge of the rostrum to drive home his words. "It is enough that our fathers and we ourselves slaved all our lives for the Potockis. We built palaces for them and in return His Highness the Count gave us just enough to keep us from dying of starvation.
"How many years did the Potocki counts and the Sanguszko princes ride our backs? Are there not any number of Polish workers whom Potocki ground down just as he did the Russians and Ukrainians? And yet the count's henchmen have now spread the rumour among these very same workers that the Soviet power will rule them all with an iron hand.
"That is a foul lie, Comrades! Never have workingmen of different nationalities had such freedom as now. All proletarians are brothers. As for the gentry, we are going to curb them, you may depend on that." His hand swung down again heavily on the barrier of the rostrum. "Who is it that has made brothers spill each other's blood? For centuries kings and nobles have sent Polish peasants to fight the Turks. They have always incited one nation against another. Think of all the bloodshed and misery they have caused! And who benefited by it all? But soon all that will stop.
This is the end of those vermin. The Bolsheviks have flung out a slogan that strikes terror into the hearts of the bourgeoisie: 'Workers of all countries, unite!' There lies our salvation, there lies our hope for a better future, for the day when all workingmen will be brothers. Comrades, join the Communist Party!
"There will be a Polish republic too one day but it will be a Soviet republic without the Potockis, for they will be rooted out and we shall be the masters of Soviet Poland. You all know Bronik Ptaszinski, don't you? The Revolutionary Committee has appointed him commissar of our factory.
'We were naught, we shall be all.' We shall have cause for rejoicing, Comrades. Only take care not to give ear to the hissing of those hidden reptiles! Let us place our faith in the workingman's cause and we shall establish the brotherhood of all peoples throughout the world!"
These words were uttered with a sincerity and fervour that came from the bottom of this simple workingman's heart. He descended the platform amid shouts of enthusiastic acclaim from the younger members of the audience. The older workers, however, hesitated to speak up. Who knew but what tomorrow the Bolsheviks might have to give up the town and then those who remained would have to pay dearly for every rash word. Even if you escaped the gallows, you would lose your job for sure.
The Commissar of Education, the slim, well-knit Czarnopyski, was so far the only schoolteacher in the locality who had sided with the Bolsheviks.
Opposite the premises of the Revolutionary Committee the Special Duty Company was quartered;its men were on duty at the Revolutionary Committee. At night a Maxim gun stood ready in the garden at the entrance to the Revcom, a sinewy ammunition belt trailing from its breech. Two men with rifles stood guard beside it.
Comrade Ignatieva on her way to the Revcom went up to one of them, a young Red Army man,and asked:
"How old are you, Comrade?"
"Going on seventeen."
"Do you live here?"
The Red Army man smiled. "Yes, I only joined the army the day before yesterday during the fighting."
Ignatieva studied his face.
"What does your father do?"
"He's an engine driver's assistant."
At that moment Dolinnik appeared, accompanied by a man in uniform.
"Here you are," said Ignatieva, turning to Dolinnik, "I've found the very lad to put in charge of the district committee of the Komsomol. He's a local man."
Dolinnik glanced quickly at Sergei—for it was he.
"Ah yes. You're Zakhar's boy, aren't you? All right, go ahead and stir up the young folk."
Sergei looked at them in surprise. "But what about the company?"
"That's all right, we'll attend to that," Dolinnik, already mounting the steps, threw over his shoulder.
Two days later the local committee of the Young Communist League of the Ukraine was formed.
Sergei plunged into the vortex of the new life that had burst suddenly and swiftly upon the town. It filled his entire existence so completely that he forgot his family although it was so near at hand.
He, Sergei Bruzzhak, was now a Bolshevik. For the hundredth time he pulled out of his pocket the document issued by the Committee of the Ukrainian Communist Party, certifying that he, Sergei,was a Komsomol and Secretary of the Komsomol Committee. And should anyone entertain any doubts on that score there was the impressive Mannlicher—a gift from dear old Pavel—in its makeshift canvas holster hanging from the belt of his tunic. A most convincing credential that!
Too bad Pavlushka wasn't around!
Sergei's days were spent on assignments given by the Revcom. Today too Ignatieva was waiting for him. They were to go down to the station to the Division Political Department to get newspapers and books for the Revolutionary Committee. Sergei hurried out of the building to the street, where a man from the Political Department was waiting for them with an automobile.
During the long drive to the station where the Headquarters and Political Department of the First Soviet Ukrainian Division were located in railway carriages, Ignatieva plied Sergei with questions.
"How has your work been going? Have you formed your organisation yet? You ought to persuade your friends, the workers' children, to join the Komsomol. We shall need a group of Communist youth very soon. Tomorrow we shall draw up and print a Komsomol leaflet. Then we'll hold a big youth rally in the theatre. When we get to the Political Department I'll introduce you to Ustinovich. She is working with the young people, if I'm not mistaken."
Ustinovich turned out to be a girl of eighteen with dark bobbed hair, in a new khaki tunic with a narrow leather belt. She gave Sergei a great many pointers in his work and promised to help him.
Before he left she gave him a large bundle of books and newspapers, including one of particular importance, a booklet containing the programme and rules of the Komsomol.
When he returned late that night to the Revcom Sergei found Valya waiting for him outside, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself!" she cried. "What do you mean by staying away from home like this? Mother is crying her eyes out and father is very angry with you. There's going to be an awful row.
"No, there isn't," he reassured her. "I haven't any time to go home, honest I haven't. I won't be coming tonight either. But I'm glad you've come because I want to have a talk with you. Let's go inside."
Valya could hardly recognise her brother. He was quite changed. He fairly bubbled with energy.
As soon as she was seated Sergei went straight to the point.
"Here's the situation, Valya. You've got to join the Komsomol. You don't know what that is? The Young Communist League. I'm running things here. You don't believe me?

All right, look at this!"
Valya read the paper and looked at her brother in bewilderment.
"What will I do in the Komsomol?"
Sergei spread out his hands. "My dear girl, there's heaps to do! Look at me, I'm so busy I don't sleep nights. We've got to make propaganda. Ignatieva says we're going to hold a meeting in the theatre soon and talk about the Soviet power. She says I'll have to make a speech. I think it's a mistake because I don't know how to make speeches. I'm bound to make a hash of it. Now, what about your joining the Komsomol?"
"I don't know what to say. Mother would be wild with me if I did."
"Never mind mother, Valya," Sergei urged. "She doesn't understand. All she cares about is to have her children beside her. But she has nothing against the Soviet power.

On the contrary, she's all for it. But she would rather other people's sons did the fighting. Now, is that fair? Remember what Zhukhrai told us? And look at Pavel, he didn't stop to think about his mother. The time has come when we young folk must fight for our right to make something of our lives. Surely you won't refuse, Valya?

Think how fine it will be. You could work with the girls, and I would be working with the fellows. That reminds me, I'll tackle that red-headed devil Klimka this very day. Well, Valya, what do you say? Are you with us or not? I have a little booklet here that will tell you all about it."
He took the booklet of Komsomol Rules out of his pocket and handed it to her.
"But what if Petlyura comes back again?" Valya asked him in a low voice, her eyes glued to her brother's face.

This thought had not yet occurred to Sergei and he pondered it for a moment.
"I would have to leave with all the others, of course," he said. "But what would happen to you?
Yes, it would make mother very unhappy." He lapsed into silence.
"Seryozha, couldn't you enrol me without mother or anyone else knowing? Just you and me? Icould help just the same. That would be the best way."
"I believe you're right, Valya."
Ignatieva entered the room at that point.
"This is my little sister Valya, Comrade Ignatieva. I've just been talking to her about joining theKomsomol. She would make a suitable member, but you see, our mother might make difficulties.
Could we enrol Valya so that no one would know about it? You see, we might have to give up the town. I would leave with the army, of course, but Valya is afraid it would go hard with mother."
Ignatieva, sitting on the edge of a chair, listened gravely.
"Yes," she agreed. "That is the best course."

The packed theatre buzzed with the excited chatter of the youth who had come in response to notices posted all over town. A brass band of workers from the sugar refinery was playing. The audience, consisting mainly of students of the local secondary school and Gymnasium, was less interested in the meeting than in the concert that was to follow it.
At last the curtain rose and Comrade Razin, Secretary of the Uyezd Committee, who had just arrived, appeared on the platform.
All eyes were turned to this short, slenderly built man with the small, sharp nose, and his speech was listened to with keen attention. He told them about the struggle that had swept the entire country and called on youth to rally to the Communist Party. He spoke like an experienced orator but made excessive use of terms like "orthodox Marxists", "social-chauvinists" and the like, which his hearers did not understand. Nevertheless, when he finished they applauded him warmly, and after introducing the next speaker, who was Sergei, he left.
It was as he had feared: now that he was face to face with the audience, Sergei did not know what to say. He fumbled painfully for a while until Ignatieva came to his rescue by whispering from her seat on the platform: "Tell them about organising a Komsomol cell."
Sergei at once went straight to the point.
"Well, Comrades, you've heard all there is to be said. What we've got to do now is to form a cell.
Who is in favour?"
A hush fell on the gathering. Ustinovich stepped into the breach. She got up and told the audience how the youth were being organised in Moscow. Sergei in the meantime stood aside in confusion.
He raged inwardly at the meeting's reaction to the question of organising a cell and he scowled down at the audience. They hardly listened to Ustinovich. Sergei saw Zalivanov whisper something to Liza Sukharko with a contemptuous look at the speaker on the platform. In the front row the senior Gymnasium girls with powdered faces were casting coy glances about them and whispering among themselves. Over in the corner near the door leading backstage was a group of young Red Army men. Among them Sergei saw the young machine gunner. He was sitting on the edge of the stage fidgeting nervously and gazing with undisguised hatred at the flashily dressed
Liza Sukharko and Anna Admovskaya who, totally unabashed, were carrying on a lively conversation with their escorts.
Realising that no one was listening to her, Ustinovich quickly wound up her speech and sat down.
Ignatieva took the floor next, and her calm compelling manner quelled the restless audience.
"Comrades," she said, "I advise each of you to think over what has been said here tonight. I am sure that some of you will become active participants in the revolution and not merely spectators.
The doors are open to receive you, the rest is up to you. We should like to hear you express your opinion. We invite anyone who has anything to say to step up to the platform."
Once more silence reigned in the hall. Then a voice spoke up from the back.
"I'd like to speak!"
Misha Levchukov, a lad with a slight squint and the build of a young bear, made his way to the stage.
"The way things are," he said, "we've got to help the Bolsheviks. I'm for it. Seryozhka knows me.
I'm joining the Komsomol."
Sergei beamed. He sprang forward to the centre of .the stage.
"You see, Comrades!" he cried. "I always said Misha was one of us: his father was a switchman and he was crushed by a train, and that's why Misha couldn't get an education. But he didn't need to go to Gymnasium to understand what's wanted at a time like this."
There was an uproar in the hall. A young man with carefully groomed hair asked for the floor. It was Okushev, a Gymnasium student and the son of the local apothecary.

Tugging at his tunic, he began:
"I beg your pardon, Comrades. I don't understand what is wanted of us. Are we expected to go in for politics? If so, when are we going to study? We've got to finish the Gymnasium. If it was some sports society, or club that was being organised where we could gather and read, that would be another matter. But to go in for politics means taking the risk of getting hanged afterwards. Sorry, but I don't think anybody will agree to that."
There was laughter in the hall as Okushev jumped off the stage and resumed his seat. The next speaker was the young machine gunner. Pulling his cap down over his forehead with a furious gesture and glaring down at the audience, he shouted:
"What're you laughing at, you vermin!"
His eyes were two burning coals and he trembled all over with fury. Taking a deep breath he began:
"Ivan Zharky is my name. I'm an orphan. I never knew my mother or my father and I never had a home. I grew up on the street, begging for a crust of bread and starving most of the time. It was a dog's life, I can tell you, something you mama's boys know nothing about. Then the Soviet power came along and the Red Army men picked me up and took care of me. A whole platoon of them adopted me. They gave me clothes and taught me to read and write. But what............

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