A Glimpse into Sorrow The countries of Eastern Europe have long endured chaos and destruction. Many of the countries in that area were devastated by war. Poland, an excellent example, rests between Germany and Russia. During World War II both those countries invaded Poland, leaving many of its cities in ruins. In modern times the Soviet Union has shattered. However, this liberation has come recently. Except for written materials produced in this decade, most works have been influenced by a life controlled by The Communist Party. In the often totalitarian state perpetuated by The Party, citizens were subjected to great injustices and horrors, all under the guise of “working for a better nation.” Communism allows for no religion, and any practicing of theology was an offense. The state of living was many times appalling, and the government used this to its advantage. By claiming to be a voice for the people, it could hide its ulterior agendas. The government’s vehement attempts at control were frequent, and Eastern European writers were forced to live under this domineering force. Their writing shows the fact that innocent people were forced to live under unjust and domineering oppressors, and that people in that region are tired of the violence inherent in that type of system. This theme is evident in Eastern European literature throughout history.”The Tale of Three Master Craftsmen” is actually an independent story within the children’s novel “My Dear Boys,” which was published in 1948. The writer, Lev Kassil, prefers to write for children, using this venue as a platform for his own political and social views. Written in any genre besides fairy-tale, this blatantly anti-Stalinist story would never have been published. The story is a tale about a country called Sinegoriya. This imaginary country is famed by the bountiful fruits which grow there in abundance, the perfect mirrors which are made there, and the strong and powerful weapons which are fashioned on the island. These objects are created by the three great Master Craftsmen: Amalgam, the master of mirrors and crystal; Isobar, the highly skilled armorer; and John Greenfingers, the renowned gardener. This glorious civilization, however, is soon attacked by a neighboring island. The leader of the aggressors, is named King Vainglorious the Eleventh-and-Three-Quarters. The first part of his name is an obvious depiction of the ruler’s self-serving nature, while the latter part comes from the fact that whole numbers are only awarded after a certain amount of years in service. This evil king is also extremely stupid, and before long squanders his entire fortune. The different winds of the world decide to take advantage of this opportunity, and congregate on the island. They approach the king and ask to be his advisors and henchmen. The king agrees, and the Secret Council of Winds seizes control and begins to rampantly ravage the country. Inhabitants are forced to attach weathervanes to their roofs, leave their doors open to the intrusions of the wind (much like the freedom exhibited by the KGB), dispose of all personal possessions (materialism is a facet of capitalism, which is strictly the enemy of communism), and destroy all mirrors (in the context of the story, this is because the king is ugly. This transfers over to real life with the fact that mirrors promote egocentric values, another capitalist belief). The Master Craftsmen are forced to stop working, and Amalgam is thrown into the dungeon. This reign of terror continues until the Master Craftsmen escape to an island inhabited by a group called The Commandos (the name “commandos” was taken from the elite group in the British forces. The author was criticized severely for his choice of names). Together with the Commandos, the Master Craftsmen regain control of Sinegoriya.This story, which has the happy ending characteristic of a fairy-tale, tells of triumph over an unjust government. The fascist monarchy that was upheld by King Vainglorious the Eleven-and-Three-Fourths is a mirror image of Stalin’s regime. The winds are the KGB and military (which has crumbled to the point that Russian soldiers are forced to beg in the street so they can feed their families) who operated nearly unchecked in the Soviet Union. The citizens in the story were forced to follow the government’s outrageous whims, and had no voice of their own.The government was ignorant and refused to admit fault. At one point in the story, the king is trying to convince a beautiful woman she is ugly so that she might marry him. Because there are no mirrors in the country, she has never seen her own face. But she is skeptical, and refuses to believe she is unattractive until she has seen her face in a mirror. The king’s advisor hatches up the following plan: have Amalgam fashion a mirror which distorts the face and causes the viewer to appear ugly. Amalgam, however, makes a perfectly plain mirror. The king and his advisors, all of whom are homely, all agree that the mirror does a fine job at distorting the true image. But when the beautiful woman lifts it to her face, she sees her own exquisite visage. One of the advisors, suspecting wrongdoing, holds it up to Amalgam’s face and sees the same image in the mirror as is reality. He then exclaims the following: ” . . .the rascal has cheated us! He made a magic mirror which distorts our own faces and the beautiful countenance of the king but reflects his own face and that of the stubborn girl in undistorted fashion (Kassil 145).” The government refuses to admit they may in any way be less than perfect. The mirror is subsequently destroyed and Amalgam sentenced to death. This story shows the writer’s disgust with Communism. The Master Craftsmen represent commerce and business. They are ushered into power by the Commandos, whose very name was taken by the British Army. Therefor the writer is hoping that the British and other allies (this story was written right after World War II) in the West will bring in Capitalism. By writing this story for children, the author is trying to put a notion in the new generation that the current system of government is wrong, and a system which involves more freedom must be implemented.”Interrogation of an Angel” is a poem written by Zbigniew Herbert. The poem is from the perspective of an interrogator torturing an angel. He uses various techniques and instruments, from hot coals to breaking his teeth. At first, the victim is bright and pure, radiating an ethereal light. But after unspeakable horrors, the angel confesses to the unnamed crime. He is left hanging by his feet, hot wax dripping from his hair and blood running from his tattered mouth. The author here gives a vivid portrayal of a completely extreme and unnecessary torture. The poem speaks out about the crimes committed by the abusive overseer. The interrogators in this story obviously enjoy their job. ” . . .How beautiful is this moment / when he falls to his knees / incarnate with guilt (Herbert 13) . . .” The interrogators find it a joyous site to see a man completely broken. What is so sad is that they forced the angel to confess to a crime he did not commit. For by definition, an angel can not take part in any wrongdoing. Even the purest of creatures is forced to relent after the torture described here is pressed upon him. What the author is saying is that these interrogations are pointless in the sense that they can get the “truth” from anyone, even when this truth is a fabrication for the sake of self-preservation. Many innocent people have been pulled in by the governments and forced to profess false truths at the hands of a torturous minion of the oppressor. Be it by the military or an agency such as the KGB, these blatant violations of human rights occurred frequently. These unnecessary interrogations are among the greatest of injustices according to the writer, and this poem is an attempt to spread the word about these misdeeds.When one is asked to think of a great Russian writer, one first thinks of Leo Tolstoy. His most famous work is the internationally famous “War and Peace.” In addition to this great masterpiece, he has also written numerous pieces of short fiction. Among these is the story “God Sees the Truth, but Waits.” The story is about a merchant named Aksenov. He is traveling to the fair in a town a couple of days away. Along the way he meets a friend of his and spends the night. Aksenov leaves early in the morning and continues along his way. When he later stops at a hotel for the evening, he is approached by the police. They tell him that the man he roomed with had been murdered and 20,000 rubles stolen. Aksenov proclaims his innocence, but a search of his bags reveals a bloody knife. His entreaties go unanswered, and he is tried for murder. The verdict is guilty, and he is sent to Siberia. After many years in that prison, by coincidence he meets the man who really killed his friend. Aksenov, however, takes pity on this man instead of telling the authorities or striking out in rage. The real killer, however, is so full of guilt that he confesses. This does Aksenov no good, for wife is dead, his children moved to unknown locations, and there is nothing left for him on the outside. “When permission came for Aksenov to return, Aksenov had already died.” (Tolstoy 228) Everything that was important to him had disappeared.
This story is a complete tragedy. Aksenov, an innocent man, was set to perish. He had committed no offense, and the evidence they had on him was purely circumstantial. The thin scraps of evidence were enough to put him away, at least in a system that is trying intently to put out an image of justice. Many of the countries in Eastern Europe care most about the image they put out to the rest of the world. This story is an example of the ease at which someone could be put away without reason. When the government becomes over-zealous about prosecuting criminals, many faultless citizens get swallowed up.The meaning changes near the end, however. It turns more into a tale of forgiving. Aksenov does not find it necessary to reveal the real killer to the guards. Some of this is because he has nothing to live for, but much is due to the fact that Aksenov is a good man. Although together the murderer and the system have brought him down, he does not need retribution. The story shows that though you may have been ruined, rage is not the answer. One must learn to forgive others, and in doing so free himself. Aksenov reached the point where he was unconditionally kind and forgiving. He had nothing to live for, but in himself he had found true enlightenment.Ivan Franko, a Ukrainian poet, is the writer of the poem “I Am Dead.” The poem tells of an apathetic person who cannot feel because he is dead. He has lost all interest in life, all his hopes and dreams have been shattered. Nothing can make the author care. “Though all the world should topple down / And brother were to murder brother / It would not cause me smile or frown . . .(Franko 107)” His entire country could fall, and civil war could erupt (brothers killing each other is often used to describe civil war) but the author would not be concerned. The author continues throughout to profess that he “is dead (Franko 107).” The poem is telling a message. In the poem the author is bringing up war. “In all your arrows and you slings, / Your petty brawls and bickerings / . . .In these my interest has fled . . . (Franko 107)” War, however, does not concern the dead. What the author is saying is that war, especially the ones based on extremely trivial conflicts, should stop. People need to look at the many people who have already died. War in Europe has already taken many lives, yet people continue to fight. The dead, however, are no longer concerned with the turmoil above the dirt. They have already had to endure the horrors of a violent life. They are done with the world, and anyone who states that they are fighting for the dead or the honor of the dead is doing so unnecessarily. The dead have nothing to do with the living. So this poem is criticizing war. It is showing that so many have already died, and it is no good to them if we continue to let more people die. So the best way to honor the dead is not to fight for their deference, but rather cease fighting and stop giving them so much company.The poem “Statue in the Park” by Polish writer Maria Korusiewicz is not so much a call to stop the violence but an appreciation of the relative peace in Poland. That country has been decimated repeatedly by war, and was even wiped completely of the map from 1795 to 1918. The poem, written in the early eighties, is about a statue in an unnamed park. The statue is of a war hero, and has deteriorated with time. The concrete has been worn down, the plaque rendered illegible, his finger has fallen off, and his forehead has been plastered with leaflets. The unknown soldier commemorated in concrete has been forgotten, his name scratched out by weather and vandals alike.The writer is not sad by the fact that the hero has been forgotten; on the contrary she is celebrating that fact. All war has brought to Poland is death and pain. The capital, Warsaw, has been destroyed on more than one occasion, and many Jewish people in that country were slaughtered during World War Two. This statue is a reminder of the terror brought by the Russians in the East and even more by the Germans in the West (in Polish, the word for “Germany” is the same as the word for “evil”). The statue even does not want to remember the times he was in battle. ” . . .He prefers not to remember / the heat of battle and clash of swords (Korusiewicz 125).” The statue would rather put the horrible past behind him and focus on the future. Same as in the poem “I Am Dead,” the message is that the past has happened, and there is nothing that can be done about it. It is more important to focus on the future and make sure it is prosperous. How else can you be sure not to make the same mistakes twice. This statue represents all that has troubled Poland, and by letting crumble you let that part of Polish history be put away. A new Poland is being formed, one definitely more of a country than it was before 1918. In that time it was only a memory in the minds of the people. Now that time is a memory and the country is on the rebound.Written by an anonymous writer, “Where, Where Are You . . . is a poem about death. In fact, the most oft repeated line is “for death shall claim us too (Anonymous 163).” The poem recounts the many people in life – the lords, the serfs, the wealthy, the brave – all of whom are dead. The writer is asking where these people have gone (”You city folk, where, where are you?”), answering that he shall follow them to the other world, for eternity, once death has come. Everybody in the authors life has been killed, and he is just waiting for the time when he can once again join them. The poem is an acknowledgement that he has lost everyone, and a vow to meet them on the other side.The poet who wrote this has lost everything. Everyone he knows has died. Even those he does not know personally have died. “And you, fair maid? your lovely face / turned white and cold . . .(Anonymous 163)” The fair maid, either his wife or child, is a woman close to him. She has died, and he wants to follow her into the next realm. There is but one force that could kill so many in such widespread diversity: battle. This man has lost everything to warfare. Because he has nothing left to live for on this earth, he is waiting until he crosses to the other side where everyone is waiting. The poem is a cry to help. A cry to anyone that can give him a reason to enjoy life. There is nothing about life in this poem, only death. The poem is telling of the consequences of war. It is another piece of writing that tries to convince the writer to cease fighting. And this one tries an original approach. It focuses on a macabre subject that most people are uncomfortable with. This helps to accentuate the message, to show the dire repercussions of war.Eastern Europe has seen more than its fair share of violence. Also there have been many times where innocent people were forced to live under onerous and oppressive governing bodies. Writers are attempting to spread the word about these atrocities. Writers are telling about the conditions in Eastern European countries. While the government makes earnest attempts to stifle these writers, one cannot stop every item of writing produced. People need a voice, and that voice is expressed on paper. Already, things have changed in Europe. The Soviet Union has broken up, and Communism in Russia has fallen. As long as people continue to express their views on was and government, things will change. To ensure freedom and liberty, there are still many places in the world in desperate need of change. People can make that happen.