"The Will To Survive." This Story Gained Me An 'very High Achievement'

1720 words - 7 pages

The reveille sounded, as it sounded every morning, and so began another arduous day in the field. That morning there was a lot of resentment within the squad, the temperature was dropping as quickly as the prisoners' hopes of freedom. Yegveny Miraskensvi was particularly resentful on that day, he felt feverish from the night before with pain in almost every joint of his body. He wanted as much sleep as he could get, as he knew it was going to be the best he would get for over a month. His squad, the 113th was about to be shifted from the main prison facility to a new site in the open countryside. But before the squad could move in, they would have to build the entire settlement from scratch. Upon these thoughts, Miraskensvi decided he would report sick. At that very moment his blanket was flung of him to the sight of his superimposed campguard. "Three days penalty with work", the campguard shouted. At the sound of this the rest of the 113th scurried into their work gear, their only gear, and headed to mess hall for breakfast. Three days penalty usually referred to a sentence of three days in the hole. All prisoners feared this punishment, locked in for three days with no food and in complete darkness.The campguard took Miraskensvi out of the prisoners quarters and towards the guardhouse, Miraskensvi felt a lot better when the two of them walked past the obsidian hole. When they arrived at the guardhouse Miraskensvi was given the simple task of scrubbing the floor. Miraskensvi was minding his own business scrubbing the floor until he splashed water, which was brought to the attention of the attending guards. "Didn't you ever watch your wife scrub the floor, pig!" responds a guard, Miraskensvi contemplates for a moment and replies "I was taken from my wife ten years ago, I have forgotten what she's like". Once finished he makes his way to mess hall and digs from his boot a spoon that he has been nursing for six years. His morning stew comprised of black cabbage and bony fish, is being saved for him by a fellow comrade. Miraskensvi and the rest of his squad know that the only way they can survive the camp is by forming a tightly knit community were everyone looks out for each other.After breakfast, Miraskensvi fell into morning roll call only to find Kirchoff, the most feared of all the guards, performing a surprise check up on all prisoners. Each prisoner was stripped down to their underpants in search of civvies, as each prisoner is only allowed the shirt and undershirt assigned to him. Courtinski, an infantry commander, protests saying the guards are violating article nine of the criminal code, Miraskensvi never protested, he was far too acquiescent. For that outburst Kirchoff sentenced Courtinski to five days in the hole, beginning in the evening so his labor won't be wasted. The squad then reluctantly put their clothes back on and the three prisoners that were found with civvies lost both their civvies and their undershirt as punishment. The squad was then moved to the South Gate, Kirchoff then recited the Morning Prayer and reminded the prisoners that a step to the left or right was considered an attempt at escape. The squad then simultaneously pulled down the brims of their hats and ducked their chins under the v-neck of their shirts and braced themselves for their daily labor in the bitter cold.Flanked by heavily armed guards, the squad began their march to the new settlement. To take his mind off the thirty-below temperature, Miraskensvi begins to think, he thinks about the day that sent him to this god-forsaken place. It was during a simple training run with the 24th tank division in Vyazma, southwest of Moscow. Miraskensvi was commandeering a soviet T-38 and accidentally drove it into a camouflaged, boggy area, effectively immobilising it for the time being. For that he was sentenced to ten years inside a Siberian prison camp, even though two days later the tank was set free. His lamentation was cut short due to a brisk icy wind racing up the adjacent hillside. This cut down their visibility even further, as barely could one now see the man in front of him. Once the new settlement was reached, much animosity could be felt within the squad. The barren, white flat that lay in front of them was to be their new home.First they were to build the fence that would keep them from escaping, ditch by ditch, pole by pole, the squad worked tirelessly for ten hours without a break. The numbness in their body slowly thawed into pain as the day wore on. One of Miraskensvi's friends, Pushkov, from sheer exhaustion, fainted. Kirchoff then, as a warning to others, brought out his whip and with all his power stroked Pushkov over the back six times until he finally got back up. What brought Miraskensvi through these tough labor sessions was just the belief that he would survive, the belief that he would make it through another session. He had now been at the camp for nine, almost ten years. He had lost track of the date. The Soviets in command believed that the best way to maintain order was to destroy personality and individuality. Withholding dates was one way, along with many of the mainstream communist thoughts, in which the Soviets in command were able to repress personality. So any day soon, Miraskensvi would receive his ticket to freedom.It was now six o'clock and the barb-wired fence was now erect, which meant that the exhausted squad had to now put up tents. The men could only imagine how cold it was going to be that night. The cabin already there was the guard's sleeping area, even though it would be big enough to fit both the guards and the prisoners. Dinner that night was gruel and bread brought over from the prison. Miraskensvi dug straight into the bread only to find it was frozen and rock solid, so he got a good grip of the bread with his teeth and yanked the bread so a piece was left in his mouth. He took the piece in his hand and raised it to the level of his eyes and watched the freezing weevils slowly slither their way through the breads catacombs. Miraskensvi left dinner still feeling hungry, as he always did and while returning to his tent he tried to remember what his wife was like. It scared him when unable to create a picture of her in his mind. Miraskensvi fell to sleep almost straight away after hopping into bed.The reveille sounded, Miraskensvi was surprised by its similarity to the prison's reveille. He was feeling uncomfortable, and the air in side the tent was very stuffy so he decided he would get up. No one else had the strength to get up, it was five o'clock and almost pitch black in the tent except for a white glow on the side of the tent from the search lights. Miraskensvi scuffed his feet along the canvas floor until he felt his boots, slid into them and walked outside. When he emerged from his tent there was enough light from the campguards searchlights for Miraskensvi to make his way to a nearby tree. To try and get the stuffy air out of his system he tried to breath in the tree's entrancing natural aroma but it was overwhelmed by the stench coming from a nearby hole in the ground used as the camp's toilet. Upon detecting the stench, Miraskensvi decided it was no better than the stuffy air and returned to his tent absolutely frozen from icy winds and decided he could use the extra sleep to get through another grueling day. Again he was awoken, this time by Kirchoff who was outside the tent ordering the squad to get ready to return to the prison for breakfast and more equipment.Clank, clank, clank, the squad's boots pressed twenty centimetres into the fresh snow. Miraskensvi was too busy trying to make out his wife's picture to notice a messenger with two guards approach the squad. When the messenger reached the squad he asked for Yevgeny Miraskensvi. Miraskensvi feared for what trouble he had got himself into until the messenger proclaimed that Yevgeny was a free man. On hearing this, Yevgeny went from a state of fear to a state of joy, but he kept his excitement within himself knowing how differently the Soviets in command perceive emotions. He was escorted to a jeep, which took him to a rail station with a ticket to anywhere. Yevgeny decided he would go as far south as possible, to get as far away from sub-zero temperatures as he could get. He decided he would go back to his childhood town of Liski and meet up with his long lost parents.Knock, Knock, "Yevgeny is that you, is that really you", Yevgeny's mum Dorsa charged at him with open arms and gave him the most affection he had received in ten years. After greeting his family and eating the largest meal had ever seen, Yevgeny walked outside after a shower had just passed. He walked across the small lawn to his favorite childhood apple tree. He takes in a deep breath, free from the stench of the estranged prison camp, inhaling as deeply as he can, and he realises how important the simple things taken for granted really are when taken away. For as long as there is fresh air to breathe under an apple tree after a shower, we might survive a little longer.

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