Burying the Sunby Gloria Whelan
Too young for the army, one boy takes saving the city into his own hands. The Russian city of Leningrad is darkening with winter and war, and Georgi's family prepares for the worst. His sister, Marya, packs up the great artwork at the Hermitage museum for safekeeping, and their mother tends to the wounded soldiers. But at fourteen years old, Georgi is too young to… See more details below
Too young for the army, one boy takes saving the city into his own hands. The Russian city of Leningrad is darkening with winter and war, and Georgi's family prepares for the worst. His sister, Marya, packs up the great artwork at the Hermitage museum for safekeeping, and their mother tends to the wounded soldiers. But at fourteen years old, Georgi is too young to join the army, and he wonders how he can possibly help his friends and family. As the city slowly starves from lack of food and hope, Georgi knows he can help his people survive, but he must face dangers as real as the battles on the front lines.
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Burying the Sun MSRChapter OneThe Summer Garden
June 21, 1941
Later that day everything would change, but on that afternoon the six of us were sprawled on the lawn of Leningrad's Summer Garden, our stomachs full, our picnic baskets empty. The last of the ice had long since drifted down the Neva, and now sailboats were sweeping along the river "like the wings of giant sea-gulls." That was how Yelena described them. Like me, Yelena was nearly fifteen. She was a poet and looked the way you would imagine a poet looked, with lilacs tucked into her long honey-colored braid and a flowered dress. She was small, while I was a skinny six feet, so I always felt like a giant next to her. Though she looked delicate, she was as quick as a rabbit. When we raced each other, she could run as fast as I could.
"Georgi," she would taunt me, "catch me if you can." Off she would go, laughing at me as I raced to keep up. School was over, and Yelena was going to work in the Leningrad Public Library among the books she loved. "Rooms full of them, Georgi," she said, "maybe a million, and I'm going to read every one."
I would be working among the thousands of paintings at the Hermitage, the great museum that was a part of the Winter Palace. While Yelena was checking out books, I would be pushing a mop. What I really wanted to do was repair cars, which is something I'm good at. There aren't many automobiles in Leningrad, so the auto mechanic who lets me fool around in his shop couldn't afford to pay me to work for him. My sister, Marya, found me the job at the Hermitage. She works as a secretary to the director.
That afternoon in the Summer Garden, my motherwas there along with Marya. Yelena had come with her mother, Olga, and her grandfather Viktor. Yelena's family, the Daskals, like our family, had been arrested for opposing Stalin and exiled to Siberia. Yelena's father, like my father, had died there. Five years ago we had returned to Leningrad...St. Petersburg, Mama still called the city.
We all had new lives now. We had put the misery of Siberia behind us. Viktor was a bookkeeper at an aircraft factory, and Olga played the violin in the Leningrad Radio Symphony. Mama worked as a nurse at the Erisman Hospital.
Yelena's grandfather Viktor still lived in the past. I think he was bitter because he had survived and his son had not. He had a long face, pinched in at the cheeks with great pouches under his watery eyes. The corners of his mouth were ever turned downward. Even Yelena, who could cheer anyone up, could not make him smile.
"Katya Ivanova," Viktor said to Mama, "I am ashamed to be a Russian. It sickens me that we should be allies with those Nazi barbarians."
Nearly two years before, in 1939, Russia and Germany had signed a friendship treaty. Russia closed its eyes while Germany fought England and the rest of Europe. Russia had even shared in the spoils as Germany stole one country after another, marching into Poland and Finland and the Baltic countries, swallowing them up like a greedy child.
"Russia has left behind a trail of death and suffering, Viktor Alexandrovich," Mama said. "I have a terrible feeling we will pay for our sins." Even though there was no one near us, all this was said in a quiet voice, for any words against the government were dangerous.
"Grandfather," Yelena pleaded, tickling him with a dandelion, "must you spoil our picnic with your gloomy thoughts?"
My sister agreed. "There is nothing we can do about such things now, so why make ourselves miserable?" And then she added, "But the day of reckoning will come for us. Germany will turn against us. You can't trust her. Andrei told me German soldiers and tanks are threatening our borders. He says the General Staff is waiting for orders from Stalin to get ready to fight the Germans, but the orders never come. Stalin only says rumors of Germany breaking the treaty and attacking us are a plot by the British to get us to fight on their side against Germany." Andrei was an officer in the Red Army assigned to the General Staff Building. He and Marya were engaged, and for Marya, Andrei's word was law.
In spite of all the pessimistic things that were being said, it was a perfect summer day, and I tried to put such worries aside. Yet I could not forget what had happened with the LÃ¼tzow. The LÃ¼tzow was a great cruiser that Russia had bought from Germany. It had been towed to the Leningrad shipyards. My friend Dmitry Trushin and I often walked over after school to watch the German shipbuilders readying the LÃ¼tzow for duty. The Germans were hard workers and friendly. I had hoped they might take me on as a helper. We came so often, they recognized us and would look up from their work and wave to us. Then their number began to grow smaller. Not one German shipbuilder remained, and yet there was still a lot of work to be done on the cruiser. Dmitry and I couldn't figure it out. Why had the shipbuilders gone back to Germany?
Marya's talk of a war with Germany may have answered the question, but on so fine a day I didn't want to think about such things. I swallowed the last of the krendeli, the little heart-shaped cookies that Olga had baked, and took Yelena's hand. Together we wandered away from the frightening talk. I chased Yelena around the fountain and in and out among the trees and statues until I caught her and, looking quickly to see that no one was near, kissed her.She darted away, calling over her shoulder, "I dare you to try that again."Burying the Sun MSR. Copyright © by Gloria Whelan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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