“I won’t tell you.”
“Was it you who set fire to the stables?”
“Yes, it was.”
“To destroy you.”
This is the story of the martyr Zoya, told in this excellent new book, Red Youth – Young Heroes of the Great Patriotic War: Volume 1, Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya. Edited and annotated by Mike Bessler and published by Erythrós Press and Media (Kettering: 2009), this is first volume in a series documenting the contributions of young Soviet women and men to the anti-fascist resistance in World War II.
This volume tells the story of Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, a young woman who sacrificed everything to defend socialism from the Nazi Fascist invaders. When she was 17 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Stalin made the call to the Soviet people, instructing that, “In the occupied regions conditions must be made unbearable for the enemy and all his accomplices. They must be hounded and annihilated at every step, and all their measures frustrated.” Like many other Young Communists, Zoya anwered this call and became “Tanya”, a partisan guerrilla. She was captured following an operation behind the German line, tortured and executed. The story of her life and her struggle, and ultimately, her martyrdom, became an inspiration to the Soviet people as they turned back the fascist tide and pushed on to victory.
The slim 88 page volume include the full text of Lyubov Kosmodemyanskaya’s 1942 short work My Daughter Zoya as well as excerpts from her larger 1953 work The Story of Zoya and Shura. Also included are post-war writings on the guerrilla resistance and supplemental texts by J.V. Stalin and V.I. Lenin.
Bessler’s forward to the volume is quite helpful in contextualizing the struggles of young people like Zoya, highlighting the role of the Soviet leadership, especially Stalin, who, as the bourgoeis historian Geoffrey Roberts points out in Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939-1953, was “the greatest of war leaders”. The story of Zoya helps to show how the war was experienced by ordinary Soviet people, who saw all that they had struggled so tirelessly to build tottering on the edge of an abyss.
These were Zoya’s last words, as she stood on the gallows, the hangman’s rope pulled tight around her throat.
Thanks to this little book, one can only hope that the story of this heroic young woman can once again inspire working and oppressed people in their struggle for peace, equality, justice, and socialism.