Famous writer Vadim Nikitin arrives in Hamburg at the invitation of Frau Herbert and recognizes in her the girl whom he loved during the war…
On the other side
47-year-old famous writer Vadim Nikitin and his friend Platon Samsonov, also a writer, but less popular, flew to Germany at the invitation of Frau Herbert, a fan of Nikitin’s talent. She invited him to a meeting of the German literary circle to exchange views on contemporary culture, and a discussion on the topic “Writer and Modern Civilization.” Samsonov Vadim took with him as an interpreter, as he himself did not have a good command of German. On the plane they discussed the last letter of Frau Herbert, in which she admired the talent of Nikitin and compared him to the great Russian writers. Samsonov feared that his beloved friend would not be corrupted by this glory.
At the airport they were met by Ms. Herbert herself. It is not what they imagined it to be. A slender, elegant,
rich woman, at the most luxurious Mercedes of that time, met them very warmly, took them to a hotel and invited them for breakfast. On her question whether Nikitin was ever in Germany, he replied that he had been besieging a small town in the forty-fifth. After breakfast, friends went for a walk around Hamburg. We inspected the monument to those who died in the Second World War, then went to the Reeperbahn Street, where they unsuccessfully visited one snack bar, watched the French porn and barely fought off the prostitutes attached to them. They were lucky that they were mistaken for the English, otherwise they would have been fully received from the guards.
Nikitin remembered his first fee of three thousand rubles, which he drank in taverns with the poet Vikhrov, ran into a fight with the youngsters in the gateway and rattled the police for allegedly launching this fight himself. From the money there were only seven hundred rubles, which did not even have enough to pay for the apartment.
On a visit to Mrs Herbert Nikitin and Samsonov met the journalist, the editor-in-chief of the Weber publishing house Dietzman,
the publisher Weber and his wife, the famous singer Lotoy Tittel. They talked about politics, about current relations between Germany and Russia. They talked about the past war, how it influenced the development of Germany, how Russian soldiers raped a German woman, and concluded that Nazism is not unique to the Germans. Tittel scolded Hitler’s policy and claimed that he disgraced the German nation. Mr. Weber described how he had been in the concentration camp and how the Americans liberated them. But soon their conversation came to an end and everyone zasobiralsya home.
Samsonov went to the hotel, and Nikitin, Mrs. Herbert, asked to stay. She showed Nikitin his old album, where there was a picture of a young girl against the backdrop of a country house. “You will learn?” she asked. And Nikitin remembered that 26 years ago in May 1945 his battery was located in this house in Koenigsdorf, and that this girl, and now Mrs. Herbert, was his lover.
May 2, 1945. Berlin was half occupied by Russian troops. Germany retreated. The battery, in which Nikitin commanded a platoon, took Kenogsdorf. After a difficult battle everyone was asleep, Nikitin was also basking in bed, no orders were received. Senior lieutenant Granautov was in the hospital. The soldiers enjoyed the delightful feeling of the approaching Victory. Inside the room Nikitin entered Sergeant Mezhenin, broad-shouldered, a bit overweight, a thirty-year-old, self-assured man. He found nearby a broken German car, and in it a safe with money and a clock. Some things he managed to carry away, the rest was hidden.
Mezhenin showed Nikitin a bag with clocks and bundles of money, asked if they could be worth something. Nikitin replied that the watch was cheap, and advised Mezhenin to give it to the soldiers, and to throw out the money. Mezhenin refused.
Nikitin goes down for breakfast. Mezhenin told the soldiers about the find, they began to decide what to do with it. Nikitin ordered Mezhenin to give out the watch to the soldiers, and give him the money. Mezhenin obeyed. Lieutenant Knyazhko, commander of a neighboring platoon, came to them and brought a German cat, which Ushatikov, the youngest soldier began to feed porridge. Knyazhko and Nikitin went for a walk around the small town, they came upon a drunk German who claimed that all Russians were good, and Russian vodka was even better.
We returned home in the evening. There the battalion commander Granaturov and Galya, an officer of the medical battalion, played cards. It turned out that Galya was in love with Knyazhko, and Knyazhko, by virtue of his intelligence, could not reciprocate her. Parallel to Galya, Graunautov takes care of doing this openly, so that Knyazhko notices. Soon Galya decided to leave, Granautov suggested holding it, but Knyazhko said that there was no need for it. Galya refuses his offer. Before the wicket, Galya was escorted by Nikitin, she complained to him that Knyazhko was ignoring her, but she still loved him.
When Nikitin returned, he felt uncomfortable with the silence, and he ordered Mezhenin to check how the sentry was. Mezhenin was gone for a long time, then there was a noise on the second floor in Nikitin’s room. Rising to his room, he saw that Mezhenin was going to rape a young red-haired German woman. Nikitin ordered to leave the German alone. Mezhenin refused, then Nikitin threatened to shoot him.
The Germans, Emma, were taken to the first floor, into the drawing-room. There, the sentry brought a young boy, about fifteen, frazzled in spectacles. Granautov ordered Knyazhko to interrogate him. The German was crying and asked Kurt to tell him everything. It turned out that they were a brother and sister, they came to collect their belongings and go to Hamburg to their grandfather. Kurt escaped from the German partisan detachment. This detachment consisted of the same boys as he. The detachment commander, corporal, recently killed the injured boy, so that he would not betray them. Granautov wanted to torture the boy, that he would tell more, but Knyazhko, as a senior in rank, ordered the release of both. Granautov had to agree.
In the morning Nikitin awoke from a knock at the door, this Emma brought him coffee. She began to pester him, he tried to refuse, but Emma insisted on her. Nikitin remembered how he had done it with Zhenya for the first time. They did not know what it was, but obeyed the call of the heart. Then the Germans attacked the village, they fled, but Zhenya was wounded, and two days later she died.
Ushatikov brought Nikitin water for shaving, Emma had time to leave. After a while Mezhenin entered the room, reported that he knew about Nikitin’s connection with the German woman, and began to threaten that everything would be told to his superiors. Nikitin reminded him that in Zhitomir Mezhenin refused to comply with Nikitin’s order, committing adultery with two nurses from the medical unit.
After breakfast, two German self-propelled guns attacked their part, they decided to take the fight. Knyazhko and Nikitin drove the soldiers forward, but they refused to go. Mezhenin said that the soldiers might die because of their desire to replenish their collection of medals with Knyazhko. Nikitin ordered him to remain silent and go into battle with dignity. The Germans blew up the bridge, it was impossible to pursue the self-propelled guns further, the Russians retreated.
But then part of the lieutenant Perlin rushed in with a request to help remove the Germans from the forestry. Knyazhko agreed. On the way they came upon the corpse of a German, very young, about sixteen. Approaching the forestry, they entered the battle. Mezhenin threw two bombs into the house, an explosion occurred, followed by a cry. Knyazhko realized that there were no soldiers in the house, and those youngsters Kurt was talking about, they are frightened and do not know what to do. Knyazhko left the weapon, went to the house and offered the German to surrender. They raised a white flag, and because of him, Knyazhko was killed with a machine-gun burst. At the price of the life of Lieutenant Knyazhko, the Russians managed to occupy the forest district and take the German boys into captivity.
It turned out that Knyazhko had been killed by a German corporal. Mezhenin shot him in a fit of anger, but Knyazhko could not return. Galya was crying inconsolably over his corpse. In the evening at a funeral feast with vodka, Nikitin said that they were all guilty of Knyazhko’s death, that he had committed a brave and noble act, and they were cowards, then took Knyazhko’s belongings, his letter to Galya, and went to his room. Knyazhko wrote to Galya that there could not be anything between them, since this is a war, and in war one can not build air locks.
In the morning Nikitin woke up in Emma’s arms. Between them again there was a love impulse. They admired the butterfly that had flown to them and taught each other new unfamiliar words. After a while, Ushatikov told Nikitin that he was summoned by the battalion commander. Granautov demanded from Nikitin a letter for Gali sitting here. Nikitin said that he did not know about any letter. Granautov threatened Nikitin that he would tell the staff about his relations with the German woman, about how he almost raped her, and now has a connection with her. Nikitin did not answer anything. Galya ordered them to be silenced in a rage and told Granautov that she never liked her, and she had relations with him only to spite Knyazhko.
Nikitin demanded from Mezhenin that he voluntarily go under the tribunal. Mezhenin threw a chair into him furiously, Nikitin fired at him. Nikitin was arrested, Mezhenin was sent to the medical unit. At night, when Nikitin was guarding Ushatikov, he asked him to meet Emma. When they met, they confessed to each other in love and spent the night together. In the morning they parted. Granautov released Nikitin from custody to go to the last battle against the Germans. Nikitin threatened only ten days for his crime. During this battle Mezhenin remained alive, but soon died under fire in the car. Out of four people, he died alone.
On a deep night Nikitin returned to the hotel, but he could not sleep, he called Samsonov, he came to him. Nikitin told about what happened. Samsonov did not understand him. Then Nikitin sent him to sleep and went to bed himself. The next day, Nikitin participated in a discussion where he and Dietzman argued about issues of politics, art, and how Russia now treats the Germans. They talked about the cult of the personality of Stalin and Hitler.
After the discussion, the whole company went to the street prostitutes, then to the tavern “Merry Owl”, which was owned by a former concentration camp prisoner. Here, Herbert and Nikitin danced and talked. She soon became ill, and they decided to go to a quieter place. In a quiet restaurant they talked about life after the war, about their own destinies.
Nikitin was married. His son died recently. Herbert died a husband, his daughter lives in Canada. She confessed to him that he loved him so far, he is for her a hero from a fairy tale, a Russian butterfly. Then they were sitting in the car, he warmed her hands. At the airport, she rushed to his neck, shouting his name, he reassured her. On the plane he felt that his heart was not aching, he decided that it was from cognac. Memories overwhelmed him. He remembered how his son died, how his wife nearly went mad, remembered how he hunted squirrels in the forest, remembered the shore from childhood, so dear and distant. Then he felt very badly, Samsonov fluttered, but it was already late, he was sailing to a distant native shore.