The Last Redoubt

excerpt 2 JUNE 1877 My mother has written to me. Her letter took two weeks to reach here. A long, tender letter, such as only a mother can write. Pieces of advice and fears, events back home and thoughts about the war, and then more advice… She thinks I am still a child. And perhaps I was a child up until that terrible moment in which I came face to face with death. The first dead man I saw: not a soldier fallen in battle, but an innocent wretch killed for no reason, brutally and pointlessly murdered. The story of Gheorghe, the cowherd, whose body was found on the island, has greatly agitated the soldiers. Each of them is asking: what quarrel did they have with him? What happened in those cruel and terrible moments on the island? A hundred armed enemies rushing without warning upon a man with only a cudgel, who was only earning a crust in a deserted place… Each of the men, on hearing of the story, felt a surge of vengefulness in his soul. The event has roused us much more than any cry to arms by the colonel. It has made us want revenge, and we joyously await the moment of true combat. How much longer will we allow the Turks to mock us? That is the question upon all our lips. I repeated it, in a whisper, to Toader, who also arrived in Bechet two days ago. He has regained his health and is eager to do something at last. "How much longer will we allow them?" "I was in hospital when the order came," says Toader. "The order says that we should avenge each Turkish incursion, and show the Bashibazouks that they cannot set foot upon our native soil and go unpunished." "That's right. You know, Toader, I keep dreaming of a true soldierly feat. One that nobody will find out about. Just for the peace of my own conscience. So that I shall know I have not encumbered the world in vain, as father says." Toader then smiled. With that smile of his, which I know so well, when he wants to make fun of me. I quickly changed the subject, afraid of the thought that was making him smile. So, mother has written to me. She tells me that the women in the towns of Transylvania have formed committees to collect donations from people for the Romanian soldiers: shirts, money, food, bandages and lint for care of the wounded. "I know that you are all having a hard time of it. Clever folk have put pen to paper and reckoned up that this war will cost not only lives but also money, a lot of money. We have found out that the troops are being urged to economise on bullets and shells. How can you economise when faced with the enemy? That is why we have decided to do everything in our power to give you a helping hand. The women are knitting socks for you, they are sewing shirts, and they are saving up money to deposit with the Committee. No sooner do we collect the parcels and money then we send them to Romania. When we go to the station with this modest aid, the people all gladly help us; they accompany us in a true procession. They have also praised us in "The Transylvania Gazette," and held us up as an example for the other towns…" I can picture my mother, accompanied by other women on the committee, meticulously collecting all those things. And I imagine that in the parcels of medications that replenish our ambulances, in the crates of cartridges collected for the front line, there is a particle of all her efforts. And I feel happy. My mother is alongside me in this war. Our war. Ours, each and every one. "Where are your thoughts, Costin?" "Far away. With my folks." Toader sighs. "You're lucky, you've received a letter. No word from my folks for the time being." "They are further away. Their letters come by a more roundabout route. You'll see that in two or three days the courier will be calling out your name too…" Ion Creangă, 1977

by Ion Aramă (1936-2004)