According to Gavrila, people themselves determined the course of their lives and were the only masters of their destinies. That is why every man was important, and why it was crucial that each know what to do and what to aim for. An individual might think his actions were of no importance, but that was an illusion. His actions, like those of innumerable others, formed a great pattern which could only be discerned by those at the summit of society. Thus some apparently random stitches of a woman’s needle contributed to the beautiful floral pattern as it finally appeared on a tablecloth or bedcover.
In accordance with one of the rules of human history, said Gavrila, a man would from time to time spring up from the vast nameless mass of men; a man who wanted the welfare of others, and because of his superior knowledge and wisdom he knew that waiting for divine help would not help matters on earth very much. Such a man became a leader, one of the great men, who guided people in their thoughts and deeds, as a weaver guides his colored threads through the intricacies of the pattern.
Portraits and photographs of such great men were displayed in the regimental library, in the field hospital, in the recreation hall, in the mess tents, and in the soldiers’ quarters. I had often looked at the faces of these wise and great men. Many of them were dead. Some had short, resounding names and long bushy beards. The last one, however, was still living. His portraits were larger, brighter, more handsome than those of the others. It was under his leadership, said Gavrila, that the Red Army was defeating the Germans and bringing to the liberated peoples a new way of life which made all equal. There would be no rich and poor, no exploiters and no exploited, no persecution of the dark by the fair, no people doomed to gas chambers. Gavrila, like all the officers and men in the regiment, owed all he had to this man: education, rank, home. The library owed all its beautifully printed and bound books to him. I owed the care of the army doctors and my recovery to him. Every Soviet citizen was in debt to this man for everything he possessed and for all his good fortune.
This man’s name was Stalin.