In 1972, in an underground newspaper of the Samizdat, there was published the text of a prayer. It had been found in the jacket of a Russian soldier, Aleksander Zatzepta, composed just a few moments before the battle in which he lost his life in the Second World War:
“O God, hear me! Not once in my life have I ever spoken to you, but today I feel the urge to make you an act of worship.
You know that even from my infancy they always told me that you didn’t exist… I, stupid, believed them.
I had never marveled at your great works.
But tonight I looked up from out of a shell hole at the heaven of stars above me!
And fascinated by their brilliant magnificence
All at once I understood how terrible the deception…
I don’t know, O God, if you will give me your hand.
But I say this to you, and you understand.
Isn’t it strange, that in the midst of a terrible inferno, the light should appear to me and I should have discovered you?
Beyond this I have nothing to say to you. I am happy just because I have known you.
At midnight we must attack,
But I have no fear, you are looking out for us.
It is the signal. I have to go.
It was wonderful to be with you.
I want also to tell you, and you know it, that the battle will be hard: it could be that, in this very night, I’ll come to knock at your door.
And even though up to now I haven’t been your friend,
When I come, will you let me come in?
But what’s this? Am I crying?
My Lord God, you see what has happened: only now I’ve begun to see clearly…
Farewell, my God, I am going.
It’s scarcely possible that I’ll return.
Strange; Death now has no fear for me.”
V Cattona (ed), Mondadori, Italy, 2006.
Translated by Jim Christensen