Cancer Ward

Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Read Free Book Online

Book: Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Read Free Book Online
Authors: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
was she worrying about? Two weeks’ holiday, what bliss! She didn’t have to do anything except go to the clinic! Such a lot of free time! When she was on duty she could read something light, or chat to people.
    â€œSo I was right to come and visit you?”
    â€œAll right, sit down.”
    â€œBut, Zoya, as far as I remember in my day the holiday used to start earlier, on January 25.”
    â€œIn the fall we were picking cotton. We do it every year.” *
    â€œHow much longer have you got at college?”
    â€œEighteen months.”
    â€œThen where will you be posted to?”
    She shrugged her gently rounded shoulders. “Ours is a big country…”
    Her eyes were enormous even when her face was calm. It was as if there was no room for them under her eyelids, as if they were begging to be let out.
    â€œBut they won’t leave you here?”
    â€œN-no, of course not.”
    â€œHow can you leave your family?”
    â€œWhat family? I’ve only got a grandmother. I’ll take Grandma with me.”
    â€œWhat about your father and mother?”
    Zoya sighed. “My mother died.”
    Kostoglotov looked at her and did not ask about her father. “But you come from round here, don’t you?”
    â€œNo, from Smolensk.”
    â€œReally … when did you leave there?”
    â€œDuring the evacuation … when else?”
    â€œYou were … about nine?”
    â€œYeah. I was at school for two years there. Then Grandma and I got stuck here.”
    Zoya reached toward the large orange shopping bag on the floor by the wall, pulled out a mirror, took off her nurse’s cap, lightly fluffed up her hair, which was crammed under it, and started to comb out a slightly curling fine golden strand.
    A golden reflection from it appeared on Kostoglotov’s hard face. He relaxed a little and followed her movements with pleasure.
    â€œSo, where’s your grandmother?” asked Zoya jokingly, as she finished with the mirror.
    â€œMy grandmother”—Kostoglotov was being completely serious—“and my ma” (the word was at odds with his bitter expression) “died in the siege.”
    â€œThe siege of Leningrad?”
    â€œUh-huh. And my sister was killed by a shell. She was a nurse just like you, only more of a child.”
    â€œYe-es,” sighed Zoya, ignoring the allusion to child, “so many people died in the siege. Damn Hitler!”
    Kostoglotov gave a wry grin. “We’ve had more than enough proof of Hitler being damned. But I wouldn’t blame the Leningrad blockade on him alone.”
    â€œWhat do you mean? Why not?”
    â€œWell, listen. Hitler came to annihilate us. Were the besieged supposed to wait for him to open the gate and say: ‘Come out one by one, don’t crowd together’? He was making war, he was an enemy. But there was someone else responsible for the blockade too.”
    â€œWho?” whispered Zoya, quite astounded. She had never heard or imagined anything like it.
    Kostoglotov knit his black brows. “Well, let’s say those who would have been prepared to fight even if England, France and America had joined Hitler as allies. Those who drew their salaries for decades without seeing how Leningrad was geographically isolated and that this would affect its defense. Those who failed to foresee how heavy the bombardments would be and never thought of stocking up provisions below ground. They strangled my mother too—they and Hitler.”
    It was all so simple—but somehow terribly new.
    Sibgatov was sitting quietly on his bowl in the corner behind them.
    â€œBut in that case … in that case surely they ought to be put on trial?” ventured Zoya in a whisper.
    â€œI don’t know.” Kostoglotov grimaced, his lips an even thinner line than before. “I don’t know.”
    Zoya did not put her cap back on. The top button of her

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