My weekend reading, Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands (New York: Basic Books, 2010), starts as follows (the link is my bonus):
“Now we will live!” This is what the hungry boy liked to say, as he walked along the quiet roadside, or through the empty fields. But the food he saw was only in his imagination. The wheat had all been taken away, in a heartless campaign of requisitions that began Europe’s era of mass killing. It was 1933, and Joseph Stalin was deliberately starving Soviet Ukraine. The little boy died, as did more than three million other people. “I will meet her,” said a young Soviet man of his wife, “under the ground.” He was right; he was shot after she was, and they were buried among the seven hundred thousand victims of Stalin’s Great Terror of 1937 and 1938. “They asked me for my wedding ring, which I….” The Polish officer broke off his diary just before he was executed by the Soviet secret police in 1940. He was one of about two hundred thousand Polish citizens shot by the Soviets or the Germans at the beginning of the Second World War, while Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union jointly occupied his country. Late in 1941, an eleven-year-old Russian girl in Leningrad finished her own humble diary, “Only Tania is left.” Adolf Hitler had betrayed Stalin, her city was under siege by the Germans, and her family were among the four million Soviet citizens the Germans starved to death. The following summer, a twelve-year-old Jewish girl in Belarus wrote a last letter to her father: “I am saying good-bye to you before I die. I am so afraid of this death because they throw small children into the mass graves alive.” She was among the more than five million Jews gassed or shot by the Germans.
Such a worthy world of starting new lives in!