Near Berezin Bridge – Letters from Russia, Part 14

Letters from Russia: Near Berezin Bridge, Part 14 (folio detail)
Letters from Russia: Near Berezin Bridge, Part 14 (folio detail)

November 27, 1812
Near Berezin Bridge, Russia

My sweet Genevieve,

It has been a journey of horrific proportions since I last was able to chance a letter.

The cold is equaled only by the depravity of desperate humans in its numbing pain. And yesterday, my friend Maurice joined the untold thousands of dead – scattered, abandoned aside the muddy cart path, deep-rutted in the frozen earth.

Littered with wreckage – dead horses, men frozen solid, eyes gaping, boots taken. Many stumble barefoot roasting frostbitten toes by their final fire. Pillages of war dumped – no weight or relic worthy of any carrying. Golden candle sticks, Persian rugs – objects of decadence, objects of art, holy relics – deserted now.

One must survive by wits and cunning and in that, my dear Maurice helped me along so much. He appeared one morning (though there is little difference between day & night – just walking and not-walking), with a sturdy walking cane for me! He was the one who coaxed me each dreadful day as we trudge into uncertain horizons. Oh the peace he feels now, free of this madness!

As I sit looking down from the hilltop, watching as thousands fall dead – by bullet, by Cossack sword, or pushed into the icy river with the mob pushing across. For me, there is little chance of me making my way across the bridge, not alone, not without help from my friend.

Surely when the officers have crossed, the bridge will be destroyed like so many bro- ken dreams – leaving the Russians and French separated as we began. I will not rush to death, rather for me, I will have the courage to determine my own fate to stride purposefully and resolutely, free of heart, clean of conscience, ruling only my sovereign self.

For you – for the days we missed together & the years in which we‘ll never part – I will find a way to survive. For the thousands of dead faces I have seen, and for Maurice, I renounce this war but pledge that I will not let this tragic madness defeat me.

My dear Genevieve, look for me in the spring, my return will be later than hoped.

With love, freedom and conviction, Henri

4 thoughts on “Near Berezin Bridge – Letters from Russia, Part 14”

  1. Thanks for your interest. The letters are fictional written my me, Dave Olson. I haven’t written a part two yet and the note to readers alludes to Henri’s fate. You can learn more about LfR at this podcast interview on Santa Cruz free radio. I also produced paintings to go along the letters which i wrote by hand in the summer of 2004 and bundled into a book made of wood and hemp. Wondering what to do with the project next.

  2. I am very interested in your ‘Letters from Russia’. It sounds terrific. Is this fictional or non-fiction? Based on Fact?

    I know people that are trying to find out what this town actually looks and feels like because their ancestors came from this town in Russia.

    How do I receive updates from you?

    Thank You
    Linda In NC

  3. Can you tell what happened what happened to Henri? Did he die? It’s almost like a book! It’s so fascinating.

    Adam C

Whatcha think?