Adamovich was a prolific author with many books to his credit.
Ales Adamovich (with Yanka Bryl and Vladimir Kolesnik)
I’m from the Fiery Villag (1975). 500 pp.
Accounts of eyewitnesses and survivors from the hundreds of Belorussian villages burnt by the Nazis together with the inhabitants during the WWII occupation of Belorussia. An outcry against Nazism this documentary book is based on interviews with people who miraculously escaped massacres similar to the one in Khatyn.
From the 9,200 Belorussian villages destroyed during the WWII, 4885 were intentionally burnt by the German punitive detachments, many of them complete with all the residents. That was part of Hitler’s general plan “OST” to liquidate entire ethnic entities. In response to these atrocities Belorussian people formed a resistance movement which was one of the strongest in the world. Vast forest areas were under partisan control and inaccessible for the German army. Several hundred thousand old people, women and children retreated into the forests under partisan protection and thus escaped being burnt with their homes.
Escape from Retribution, a novel
The protagonist sees a dream in which his dead father asks him to punish the investigator Volchek who had incriminated him on a false charge in 1936 as a result of which he had to abandon his academic career and make do to with a pitiful life of a village teacher. The father’s spirit tells him to find Volchek’s children and reveal to them the true nature of their father. So the son first goes to a firm called “Family Tree” to find any successors. The protagonist thirsts for retribution and swears to avenge his wronged father. But his personal investigations bring out so many different truths and motives whereby certain scoundrels appear as heroes and executioners as victims. In the end the river of oblivion has washed away all of them, even any memory of them, and the only one spared is the protagonist’s worst enemy: that very cruel prosecutor Volchek, the main villain. He has lived a full and satisfying life amidst loving family, wealth and respect.
The novel is a combination of phantasmagoria, detective story and romance. The author provides a convincing explanation of Russian people’s apparent love for Stalin which is in actual fact is a yearning for glory and historical creativity. This idea, underlying the whole novel, makes it more important than just a work of fiction – it is a profound analysis of the current state of the nation’s mentality.
Ales Adamovich and Daniil Granin
The Blockade Book (Leningrad under Siege). 640 pp.
One of the most striking documentary books about the Second World War it brings out the shocking details about the siege of Leningrad which lasted for 900 days. The authors collected diaries and letters from those days and interviewed more than 200 survivors ranging from school children to scholars and engineers. These are witness accounts of everyday life in the besieged city suffering from hunger and freezing cold, regular air raids and overwork, providing personal stories and angles of vision.. These are stories about a thirst for life and numerous human losses, stories of courage and cowardice, egotism and self-sacrifice. Today, many decades later, the heroism and staunchness of the Leningraders still boggles the mind. What made them go on – the authors wondered.
The book testifies to the indomitable spirit of the trapped people. It shows the incredible limits of human endurance which made it possible for many people to retain their sanity and humanity despite the inhuman conditions of the siege and withstand the hardships at home and at work. Also described are the many cases of cruelty and callousness, despair and degradation, survival and submission.
The book was finished in 1977 but banned from publication until 1984 because it contained “secret” information regarding food rations for various categories of populations, and shocking scenes of brutality, which ran contrary to the ideological dogmas of the times.
The authors come to the conclusion that the survivors were mostly people who were involved in some meaningful activities rather than saving their energy doing nothing, who helped people in greater distress rather than caring only for themselves, who honoured their obligations and preserved their dignity in the face of mortal danger and continued famine.
Particularly striking is the diary of teenager Yuri Ryabinkin who is desperately trying to live according to the morals he had been taught in the family. But his strong survival instinct makes him do things he bitterly regrets later: he has eaten a stray cat, he quarrels with his mother over food rations, he steals some soup from the neighbour, he begs his sister for more bread. But at the same time he does his duty on the roof fearlessly extinguishing incendiary bombs, queues for hours to get bread for the family and fights with bread thieves, he gets good marks at school. Yuri’s confessions are amazingly self-castigating, he is tortured by pangs of conscience over actions which are quite forgivable considering the circumstances.
At the same time people could rejoice at the slightest alleviation of their suffering, such as an extra slice of coarse bread or a plate of thin soup, at the sight of an intact window pane or a wall warmed by the sun, green foliage which was particularly lush that spring or a flower you just admired.
War under the Roofs (1960) and Sons Go into Battle (1963), a novel in two parts about the war experiences of the civil population in Belorussia on German occupied territory. The novel is based on first-hand impressions of Adamovich and his mother in the partisan army.
The Story of Khatyn (1973). Khatyn is a burnt-out village where instead of the houses there are now obelisks for the victims of the German occupation. Here a group of former partisans come to pay tribute to their near ones burnt alive by the Nazi. As a young boy, the hero miraculously escaped from the burning village having witnessed the death of his mother and sisters.
The Last Vacation (1975) is a story of an oncologist who performs a dangerous experiment on himself.
The Punitive Force (1981). A narrative nonfiction book investigating the Nazi inhuman philosophy and brutality. The story focuses on a particular punitive squad famous for their atrocities on the Nazi-occupied Belorussian territory. Adamovich was present at the trials over them in the 1960s and recorded blood-curdling stories told by people of various nationalities who had easily turned into executioners and beasts.
The Last Pastoral (1987), a warning against nuclear war. The last humans – two men and one woman – survived a nuclear war on an island.
Venus, or How I was a Surf-Owner (1992), a story of a young girl called Venus during the war and the immediate post-war years. The book shows a horrible life of Soviet countryside in the 1940s. Suppressed by the authorities villagers were turned into veritable surfs.
The Deaf and Dumb (1992).This is a moving story about true love between representatives of the two warring nations amidst the burning hell and bloodshed. A 16-year-old Belorussian girl falls in love with the young German soldier Franz. To stay with his beloved Franz pretends to be deaf-and-dumb until the war ends.
VIXI (1994), A memoir-novel in which Adamovich looks back on his childhood, youth, his parents, and his daughter, as well as shares his thoughts on the times and his life. He made notes for this book at the hospital recovering from a heart attack. He reflects on the two Fuhrers: Hitler and Stalin, imagining their meeting and conversation in May 1945. Here documentary material is combined with fantasy and sharp grotesque. The book concludes with reminiscences of his mother’s death.
Diary Notes for various years, beginning from 1945. Half of them still unpublished.