Perhaps it was the humidity generated by the Volga,
perhaps it was the
wind across the steppe, but the cold of Stalingrad
that winter was excruciating.
In a day the temperature would run up and down
-25 Celcius degrees or more.
One morning it was -20 degrees, and then it dropped
to -30 Celcius. By afternoon it
was -35 Celcius degrees. Evening brought a fall
to -40 Celcius degrees and the dark of the
night it took the thermometer down to -44 Celcius.
A war correspondent who later
visited Stalingrad described the intensity of
the cold :
Your breath catches.
If you breathe on your glove
a thin film of ice
immediately forms. We couldn't eat anything because
all our food, bread,
sauge, and eggs, had turned into stone. Even
wearing valenki (felt boots)
and two pairs of woolen socks, you had to move
your toes all the time to
keep the circulation going. Without valenki,
frostbite would have been
certain, and the Germans had no valenki. To keep
your hands in good
condition you had to clap half the time or play
Once I took out a pencil to write down a few
words. The first word was
all right , the second was written by a drunk,
the last two were the scrawl
of a paralytic, quickly I blew on my purple fingers
and put them back in
the lined glove.
And in this weather the German and Russian soldiers
fought each other.