The communique repeated the information. “He went to the body of his wife and wouldn’t leave it, although she was dead.”
How strange. Why didn’t he run and save himself? What made him go back? Is it possible that he loved her? Is it possible that he wanted to hold her in his arms one last time? Is it possible that he needed to cry and grieve? Is it possible that he felt the stupidity of war? Is it possible that he felt the injustice of fate? Is it possible that he thought of children, born or unborn? Is it possible that he didn’t care what become of him now?
It’s possible. We don’t know. Or at least we don’t know for certain. But we can guess. His actions answer.
And so he sits alone in a prison. Not a “Russian” or a “Communist” or “solider” or “enemy” or any of these categories. Just-a-man who cared for just-a-woman for just-a-time more than anything else.
Here’s to you, Nicolai Pestretsov, wherever you may go and be, for giving powerful meaning to the promises that are the same everywhere; for dignifying that covenant that is the same in any language— “for better or for worse, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor and cherish unto death, so help me God.” You kept the faith; kept it bright— kept it shining. Bless you!
– Robert Fulghum