Zinky Boys – Svetlana Alexievich


I have once again read a book by this Nobel Prize winning author and I have to say, I was not prepared.

Just like in War’s unwomanly face, this is a book written by interviewing soldiers and their families. This time it was about a war in Afghanistan, uncovering such a raw shivering truth about Soviet troops engaged in this devastating war.

Zinky Boys tells an affecting testimony of the officers and grunts, nurses and prostitutes, mothers, sons, and daughters who describe the war and its lasting effects.

The truth about the fighting in Afghanistan was covered in lies for years, those 18 – 19 years old boys were told they’re going to „build bridges and roads“ and instead they got guns into their hands and then were sent home in zinc coffins (hence the name Zinky Boys).  Their parents were told they died of food poisoning or falling under trucks.

“After thousands of them died, we had to start telling mothers the truth.“

Some of the soldiers wanted to go home so badly they mutilated their hands and legs, just to become useless and be sent home.

One guy said that his friend got a picture of his girlfriend from her wedding and they had to look after him for a while because they were worried he would shoot himself. Eventually he pulled the rifle on her picture.

Many of them mentioned about how in situation like theirs, you cannot think of what you’re doing because you would go mad. You have to turn your brain off and just follow orders. That’s why so many of them had PTSD after returning home, because there was nothing stopping them from thinking. Becoming more broken even when it was all over.

There were many extremely graphic descriptions and testimonies about fighting in a war no one wanted to fight in. No one knew what was the real point of the war, they were forced to obey the orders in conflict that state denied for the entire time. Decades later the whole thing was called “political mistake” and those boys were treated by society like fascists.

The last part of a book (at least the version I was reading) was description of Alexievich trial, after one of the soldiers from book claimed she changed his testimony, and one mother of dead soldier suing her for saying in book that her proud strong Russian son was “crying every time he returned home.” Because obviously that was not the truth, men don’t cry. The trial took months and many mothers from book stood against the author. It was interesting to read about how Alexievich dealt with the trial and it was clear she is a wise, kind woman who only wanted justice for them.

It’s yet again very hard book to read and I felt sick after every few pages, but it’s so honest and so well written, I had problem keeping my eyes off it.

Stories are so authentic that you can see the mountains and feel the heat from just reading about it. You read about the shame and the fear, the severed parts in coffins, losing of friends, children, husbands. You try to imagine what it would be burying your son in zinc coffin, not allowed to tell anyone what happened.

It’s amazing that we now can read the whole truth about those events in new light and all thanks to hard-working author.

5/5 I’m excited to read more shattering books from this writer



Posted by

Natalia 22 Slovak. Read about my passion for fashion, travel and personal experiences.

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