Letters from the Field: The Battle of Stalingrad
The brave servicemen and women of the Soviet Union fought to defend their people, their land, and their pride as they valiantly sacrificed life and limb to fight back against the Reich. What kept them fighting diligently, if not their courage, were the words of their family and friends offering hope and a glimpse at the life they were trying desperately to defend. Soldiers at the forefront of the war would send and receive mail to lift their spirits and motivate them to fight for the Motherland. Today, we have the opportunity to witness the love and humanity of these fighting men and their families as we gather letters recovered from Soviet soldiers of the Battle of Stalingrad.
Sergeant Nikolai Belinski had endured the worst the war had to offer, losing his wife during the first days of the German advance, and losing his brother to the bloody Battle of Stalingrad. Shortly after his brother’s death, their mother wrote Nikolai a message offering solace for her boy who had lost everything. The following letter was recovered by American forces in 1945 as Soviet belongings stolen by German soldiers were confiscated, and these words were among them, now translated into English. It is unknown what happened to Nikolai after receiving the letter. Soviet records only indicate he was last seen near the end of the battle, and he may have been one of its countless victims.
16th of December, 1942
I will keep my words brief, as I have difficulty holding my pen and my ink is running short.
Every day I worried for you two, hoping that my boys would return home in good health and perhaps I could make up for my own failures as a mother. Your brother’s death has left me shaken, and I know now I can no longer wait to apologize. My body is weak and each day becomes more difficult. Your sister tries to help, but I do not think I will live to see your face again. I wish for you to know that I loved you two, even when we fought. I did not think I could forgive you for not attending your father’s funeral. He was a strict man, who loved you, truly, even if he could not always express this love. If he had known his time was coming as I do now, I believe he would have apologized to you. Of all his children from all his wives, he said you were the strongest. He believed you were tough, and saw you becoming a better man. He drank himself to death, alone. I wish he could see you now, a war hero, just like him. A true Belinski.
If you will not forgive me, I only ask that you stay safe and control your anger. Without your brother by your side, I fear you will lash out and find yourself in trouble just like in your youth. I need you to stay strong, my son. Please write to me when you have the opportunity. There is not much time left for me, and I have not heard from you in so, so long. I love you.