The sun was still weak. Even by noon it had not managed to dry the ground soaked with the night’s rain. Zuzana knelt in the wet grass. She was holding her prayerbook open in her hands, though by now she knew the prayer for her dead husband by heart. Her eyes red from weeping, she stared at the great heap of earth lately raised.
  Even after much pleading, the German command staff had not allowed the parish priest to bury the Russian partisan in consecrated ground at the cemetery. The lads from the village had to dig a hole in the frozen earth directly under the mountain, right where he’d been shot. They wrapped the body in a sheet and buried it in a coffin hastily hammered together from crude boards. But the parish priest consecrated the grave nonetheless. Bolsheviks or National Socialists, we’re all equal before God, he shouted at the protesting guardsman who was observing the burial.
  When the front came through, Zuzana’s first thought was that the grave must be properly enclosed with stone borders. She knew that her mother hadn’t even a crown to contribute to the work, so she decided to go to the people in the new National Committee. All she was afraid of was that they would want to bring Alexej down below to the cemetery, or, God forbid, take him off to the Soviet Union. Here under the mountain she had him close by. She could go to him every day, and some days three times. Her mother, to be sure, was angry. She was afraid of what people would think, when Zuzana so publicly mourned her Bolshevik lover.
  But to Zuzana it was all the one. In a few weeks everybody would see that she was expecting a child. Young Alexej. For certain he’d be a boy. Alexej Alexejevitsch. She had long been searching for words to make it known to her mother.
  Zuzana blessed herself. She was about to close the prayerbook when her eye fell on the lower right-hand page, where there was a prayer for deceased parents. It occurred to her that in the name of her child she could pray for its dead father. She put one hand on her belly, as if wanting to link with the child, and firmly gripped the prayerbook with the other, because the wind was starting to puff up the pages:
  – Lord, who commanded us to honour our father and mother, have mercy on my father’s soul...
  When Zuzana was going back homewards along the slope, she noticed three men coming from the garden of her house and making towards her. Two of them were Soviet soldiers; the red on their shoulderbands glowed in the cold March sun. The third was a militiaman, a civilian in village dress with a red armband. Oh, let them not want to take Alexej somewhere away: the thought flew through her mind.
  – Are you Zuzana Lauková? – the militiaman asked, when they met in the middle of the meadow.
  – Yes, well, you know that, – Zuzana replied.
    With a contemptuous curl of his lip the man said:
  – You must give an explanation in a certain matter, come with us.