War put great distances between loved ones.
In a short telegram in June 1943, one of the partisan leaders – Andreev – inquired after the well-being and whereabouts of his wife and daughters.
Salogor, the head of the Moldavian Communist Party, wrote back with an address in Moscow and said they were all well.
Not to know where your loved ones were.
Not to know how they were.
These were the commonplace daily experiences of millions of people in WW2.
Separated from all they held dear.
But it was not just distance that separated them, for when (or if) they were reunited, they brought back with them their experiences of their war.
And some things cannot be shared, should not be shared.
Things you had done. Things you had seen. Things you had heard.
The cries of the dying. The begging for mercy. The stench of burning flesh.
How do you talk about that?
And so even after the fighting stopped and you were physically reunited with your family and friends and acquaintances, there was still distance between you. This was one of the ways the war continued to exert itself on the minds and memories and emotions of those who experienced it.
And this was also why the bonds between those who fought remained so strong. For although after the war they were often separated by great physical distances, they remained emotionally and spiritually proximate, united in their shared experiences of comradeship and tragedy and dark humour and loss.
And it was a closeness that needed no words. Catherine Merridale in her book Ivan’s War, writes that on the annual commemoration of WW2 in Russia, the Red Army veterans stand in silence and weep.
Despite the separation of time and space, the pain of those days cannot be erased.