Daria Doilnitsyna

School: School N583

Force of a Sparrow Song


Every family in Russia has a hero whose memory is being cherished

words from a Russian Post-war song


A true story


The house on Zhdanovskaya Embankment. It hid in the narrow yard.

The house remembers a lot of things. The house remembers the ruffled up sparrow who has been living in a chimney in the winter of 1941 to 1942. Nobody could explain how it happened that a little bird has found himself in this yard, filled up with beaten bricks in the two-storeyed building at the time. All birds and animals had disappeared from these places even in the autumn when bombs and shells had started falling on the city so plentifully that walls of many houses had turned into ruins. These walls as though complained of bitter destiny and advised to be earthed more deeply, to hide the cracks during attacks on the city and not to sit near chimneys. But…

… the sparrow appeared when the old truck drove into the yard. There were wounded people in the body of the truck among boxes with some necessary equipment for hospital. They lay nestled to each other closely in order to be warmed, having hidden their noses in the lifted collars of their overcoats. Wounded people were brought from Kirovsk region, where it was much more terrible than in the city, where those cold winter days and nights snow was mixed up with the black earth and human blood. Hardly alive, not chirping at all the sparrow watched the slowed-down movement below. The doors of the two-storeyed building opened (yes, yes, during the Siege of Leningrad the hospital was located in the house where the sparrow tried to be warmed) and four girls in padded jackets slowly ran up to the car. Hospital attendants, the men who accompanied wounded people jumped clumsily off the truck body. They had also stiffened and frozen during their way. Finally they began to unload the wounded people. Those who could move themselves were taken away to the building at once, others were put on stretchers (hospital attendants would take them later) or dragged aside and stacked as firewood in a woodpile. One of the soldiers with the breast tied up by some rags full of holes was removed from the truck and put near a house porch – they were going to drag him aside as well as others who had died during transportation…

-   Hospital attendant Ivanov! Help the girl! That was the voice of the doctor on duty.

The sparrow watching the events bent a head to see the doctor and swept from the roof down. The cold weather had made harm to the sparrow. It didn’t look like those carefree sparrows that cheerfully flew and chirped. Earlier in late fall the sparrow could get food itself, but now it fell because of powerlessness. The cold took the last heat away from a little body. Its vital forces ran low. The sparrow swept down from the roof as a stone and fell right on the tied-up breast of the body of the soldier lying near the porch. The hand of the soldier moved slightly, rose to the breast and covered the bird’s little body with his palm…

So the soldier and the sparrow appeared in the hospital where they spent three long cold months. They ate from one bowl, drank from one mug, slept on one folding bed reminding a bench with the tarpaulin pulled above. The wound in the breast was very serious but thanks to the sparrow, Gusev Ivan Aleksandrovich (that was the name of the soldier) felt less pain. The birdie got stronger quickly. It was warm in the chamber; it was possible to find grain crumbs on the floor – that was all the little bird needed! Every morning it sat down on Ivan Aleksandrovich’s breast, explained to him something in the bird’s language, flew over the folding bed, encouraging the soldier by the sparrow song. Like a psychotherapist it made to believe in life with its chirp. It so happened the sparrow become necessary, just necessary for all in the hospital. Listening to the sparrow chirping, seriously wounded people felt better and were on the mend quicker despite the long cold and hungry Siege days and nights. The sparrow managed to visit all chambers, to chirp and carry messages and not only to wounded people but to doctors, to wake all the hospital. In a word, the birdie felt good next to the soldiers.

The private Gusev was discharged from the hospital at the end of March 1942 when snowdrifts began to thaw on the streets and water flew down to the rivers. Slowly Ivan Aleksandrovich moved ahead through the lifeless districts of Leningrad destroyed by the fascists, hatred of the enemy from what he saw began to increase and forced him to quicken his steps. He went towards Rzhevka station. Then together with other courageous defenders of Leningrad he had to reach by car the military unit which was between Mga and Kirovsk. The soldier followed the road and a bird went round and chirped over him. The sparrow didn’t reach Rzhevka. It lagged behind. Probably it was beyond its power. The bird followed Ivan with its eyes and, and, and its little black eyes streamed a tear – the sparrow didn’t want to leave his friend.

The wife and four children of Ivan Aleksandrovich learned about the sparrow from the triangular crumpled letter which was sent by Gusev to native Vologda upon the return to the military unit. The letter came to Vologda together with another one… It was reported in the second letter that the private Guseb Ivan Aleksandrovich had died a hero’s death defending the village of Tortalovo, Mga Province, Leningrad Region in January 1943.

The letter as well as the ‘killed in battle’ notice is stored in the archives of Tikhomirova Liya Aleksandrovna, granddaughter of Gusev Ivan Aleksandrovich. Every year in May Liya Aleksandrovna (now with her grandsons!) comes to Leningrad to visit the house on Zhdanovskaya Embankment where her grandfather and the sparrow lived for those three months. Also she surely visits a memorial, Sinyavinsky Heights. There are common graves for the dead defenders of Leningrad. On the memorial plate of one of the graves it is cut: Gusev I. A. Private Soldier. Exactly here, near this inscription, the woman stays for a long time and rejoices so much when a small chirping sparrow flock arrives on a grave. (And it always occurs!) Probably the descendants of the sparrow from the hospital keep the memory of Gusev I. A.

…Look around. Perhaps those little birds drinking from a pool, sitting on a branch, sleeping in a nest, soaring in the sky, fighting on the ground also keep memory of those who were lost in war? Remember those who will never come back, who at the cost of their lives presented us clear sku, bright sun, and peace on earth.

Cherish the life…


A Picture

Hello! I am a girl from a picture. I live in Armutz Gallery at the exhibition devoted to South America.

Every day hundreds of visitors pass by me. I hear their steps and exclamations, I feel how they come nearer to me, but I can’t see them because I look deep into a rainforest. I have turned my back upon the visitors and nobody sees my face. The visitors can examine only my white dress and black wavy hair.

People speak to me: ‘Turn back, girl!’ But I cannot turn. The soul of the forest attracts me afar where the forest streamlet runs, where leaves of an old wise tree rustle silently, where a person can find privacy and think. Where a person can realize what is actually important for him, what will make him happy. Green branches and friable roots of a mighty tree, splash of a streamlet will help to find the answers to many questions that can hardly be found… But I can.

I live in a small village near the forest. I have visited it since my childhood and still now when it is sad and lonely I open all my secrets to the trees. I can’t trust the secrets to the people – only to the forest. I talk to it. I ask questions. I tell the stories and legends of our village. And the forest answers me with the help of the leaves rustling, singing of the birds and steps of the animals. When I am alone with the nature I understand that the real happiness is to have someone close to you whom it is possible to talk about sincerely, who will understand your problems and who sincerely loves you.

So are the mysterious South American Forests.


About the author

I am diligent, inquisitive, creative, capable, responsible, active and fond of sports. I take sports and dancing classes, vocal lessons and swimming lessons.

My favourite subjects are Russian, literature, English and history. Just studying these subjects I learn a lot of new and interesting things. In addition I learn German.

Russian is the native language of my family and my Homeland. It is the main subject for me. My grandmother worked more than forty years as the teacher of Russian and literature, and I have to live up to her expectations.

Literature is one of my favourite subjects. My love of literature began with Pushkin’s fairy tales. Reading books since my earliest childhood we learn about the world, we face good and the evil, we learn to argue, to analyse, we fill up a lexicon. While reading the books of different genres we explore the novel’s worlds, and one can feel oneself like a detective, or an animal’s trainer, or a princess from fantastic worlds. Books help us understand ourselves.

History is one of the most important and necessary subjects. It is very important to know who you are and to understand why the events have happened the way they have. And it is very important not to repeat past mistakes.

English is the language of international communication. It is necessary for you not only when travelling around the world. Knowledge of a foreign language makes life more bright, more interesting. It cleans a barrier to communication with people. Without knowledge of foreign languages, it’s impossible to solve global problems such as war and peace, and ecology.

In the future I want to be a journalist and a writer because it’s very interesting and informative work. To fulfil my dream, I have to work much, but I like such kind of work. I compose stories, fairy tales and verses. Also I study in the Press Centre ‘Generation’ and I am a member of the school newspaper editorial office. I read much and I travel much. It helps me to learn more about my world that is very important for my future profession.

My favourite writers are Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Works of these writers impressed me very much. Sometimes I felt myself like a great lady, together with Jim I looked for treasures, and I cried while reading the legend ‘Heather Ale’. Thanks to these books I fell in love with Scotland, its nature and folklore. 

Scotland is one of the finest places on earth. I dream to see the ancient castles, meadows, mountains, I would like to follow the tracks of Sir Walter Scott, to see the places where he created his remarkable novels that are being loved in Russia.


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