SMALL CONCERT
 

…It was completely silent. The sun was shining. The frost abated, and because of the strong dampness, all the trees were covered with the fluffy cranreuch. From time to time – because of an indiscernible motion of the air, or because of any other reason – the hoarfrost was falling with a rustle off the branches and was hanging like a long, up to the ground, sparkling trail, which would hide everything with itself for an instant: a branch, which gave a jump and freed, and the tree itself, and the depths of the forest behind it, and, it seemed, completely everything in the world. The silver thaw's trails asparkle under the sun were arising here and there along the whole impenetrable wall of the forest, on both sides from the railway bed – as though someone invisible, hardly touching strings, was playing an inaudible melody.

Prior to it, on this part of the road, the forest had touched the very railroad, but then the cut down tracksides did not let it to be so close, and, being at a distance, the forest's wall appeared before Walter rather extended in both directions, so that he had a possibility to supervise the playing musical score of falling down, sparkling hoarfrost in its whole completeness.

The sun was already warming like in spring, but the winter did not give up, not wishing to reconcile with the inevitable. There was still a lot of snow, only on the slope, to the right of the road, as Walter noticed, it began melting somewhere. Having tired of the moving train's monotony, Walter was enjoying quiescency, silence, and the fresh, still frosty air, in which an aroma of inevitably approaching spring could already be felt. He opened the covered platform's both looking against each other doors, thus making a draught, and was then standing without his cap, having given his face to the sun and covered his eyes. …The silence was ringing, …the cranreuch was falling with a rustle off, …the melting snow was settling down. The melody was developing. …At a certain moment, all the other sounds and smells, which had not been allowed before to his consciousness, turned suddenly on: saws, axes, deaf knocks of logs, infrequent abrupt commands – the tear-down of the logjam on the rails was going at full drive, someone's steps' creak of snow, the lighter, which started working only after the third time, the cigarette – the guard, steps again – red Erik, engine-driver's assistant, was walking along the wagons, tapping the places only he could know with his hammer on the long handle. It was him, Erik, not the engine-driver, who was the first to notice the logjam, when the waggonage was leaving the turn for a direct part. It was good that Walter had strictly been monitoring the abidance by the speed regime assigned by special instructions, and therefore, the train, having grated hundred meters or so on rails, did stop, having buried in the hurly-burly dense branches of huge fur-trees and pines perched on the rails. It was strange, but there was no assault on the train abristle with all the trunks, which was lying up in expectation. Probably, there was something, yet clear, in the enemy's tactics, and Walter did not like the looks of it. Having waited a sufficient time and having made sure in the absence, at least, of an evident threat, Walter, having kept sentries on duty only, ordered to hurl all effort into the prompt tear-down of the rails. Having observed the way and tempo the work was being done, he decided that he would be able to partially compensate for the loss of time, and the delay would not be too big.

Walter returned to his compartment. He drew one of shuttles and got a little box made of green carton, which could be opened from both flat ends. There was a packed valve, which had been received for him in a warehouse by Klaus the radiomechanic instead of the same tube, which had come out of action in the receiver in Walter's flat. Klaus had offered his help, but Walter had insisted on everything to be done by himself. It was not hard to fix it. A few minutes prior to the emergency braking before the logjam, Walter had also been busy with drawing the valve out, examining its mysterious polyfoil interior, his fingers had been rolling over its cast glass body and pressing into his palm the acute, glaucous because of the spot welding, metal contact dowels in the way so that then the reddened traces pressed through the skin by those dowels were sweetly hurting if to clasp or press the palm in that place. He had been visualizing how, having weakened the bolting, he would take off the receiver's back, would insert the valve into its stoke, how the power transformer would wake up with a start and hoot, how the crimson aura of all the eleven tubes would dimly reveal the device's internal landscape covered with many-years' dust, and the radio aether hums and sounds would fill his room… Walter was feeling annoyed with himself again, "What a piece of childishness". In case the valve taken from its box, had been a bit longer in his arms, then it could just have been broken, when Walter had been thrown and pressed into the opposite wall of his compartment, while the train, braking and going back, was trying with all its forces to stop. "Inexcusable boyishness," – bethought Walter himself and hastily put the valve back into the box, being afraid that somebody would catch him doing things not becoming to an officer.

Walter knew that in about ten minutes the logjam would be cleared out, and the train would pump farther, that they would already be in the settlement by dinner, and that in the evening, the receiver with the new tube would already work, and the following day, on Monday, March 6, 1944, in the morning, from 11 to 11:30 a.m., he would be listening to Hamburg Orchestra's Small Concert, as Reich programme of the German radio promised him. This quiet certitude of his in the approach personally for him, alive, of those or other definite and scheduled by him events was neither carelessness nor irreflection of a person, who is not clear in his own mind that every other moment, there was a danger of his each ordinary day. No. He just considered the matter that he was embroiled in some years ago because of his sincere impulse and conscious desire of an honest person and citizen of the country, and that was occurring to him then in this another's country almost in fifteen hundred kilometers to the East from his native Berlin, a job, which he, as an honest person and citizen, was obliged to do honestly, and where the danger was only a matter-of-course characteristic feature of those particular working conditions, only one more item of the employment contract. Nothing more.

…In that settlement, the Berlin radio could be heard in the marvellously stable and almost without dying-outs way. Maybe, it was also because Klaus the radiomechanic planted on the covered with battens roof of the house, where Walter lived, a polyfoil wire aerial, having disguised it from an unnecessary extraneous look.
 

Igor Savchenko
Villa Waldberta, Feldafing (Munich) – Minsk
April-June 2000

Russian-English translation: Andrey Bursau, Minsk