It’s just an hour until the shelling’s over, It’s just an hour for troops to have their rest, It’s just an hour until the major chores, It could mean medals, or a capital offence. This hour to pass, we’re writing not a word: We pray for gods of war - the cannoneers!1 Since we are convicts, not your usual sort, No need to write “if I get killed, consider...”2 Before the fight, a shot of vodka - nay! We drank enough of this before conscription, That’s why we don’t intend to yell “Hooray!” We’re playing silent on our deadly mission. A convict has a single code, a single end: To cut, to pierce the fascist dirty scoundrel. And if you fail to snatch lead with your chest You sure will catch a medal for your valor3. So use your knife or, better yet, your hands! They’re more efficient and produce no sound, And if you can survive until the end, Go spend your ruble, throw it all around! The foe now thinks that our morale is falling: They left behind the burning streets and forests. You’d better save this timber for your coffins: Breakthrough is led by companies of convicts! It’s six o’clock, the shelling now proceeds. Well, god of war, it’s not a time for silence! It’s just an hour until the major deeds: For some it’s medals, but for the rest - death sentence.
1 The phrase "Artillery is a god of war!" first appeared in Stalin’s speech in 1941, and was popularized by the Soviet newspaper in 1942. The majority of combat deaths in World War I and World War II were caused by artillery.
2 The phrase "If I get killed, consider me a communist" was written by many common Soviet soldiers prior to the decisive battles. Such practice was widely approved by political commissars, helping to establish the authority of Communist Party and increasing the number of its members who lost their lives defending the Motherland.
3 The Medal "For Courage" or Medal "For Valor" was a military award for personal courage and bravery displayed in battles.
© Kirill Tolmachev. Translation, 2020