Snow – the great leveler
When I was out walking through the snow in the Chiltern Hills outside of London the other day, with the cold air penetrating through my thick clothes, I remembered the toughest man I have ever met.
He was a Siberian, called Vasily Borisov. And exactly sixty nine years ago today he was fighting the Germans outside Moscow. And when I met him in 2006, when he was well into his eighties, he seemed every bit as strong as he must have been during the war. His hand shake almost crushed my fingers and his big, slab-like face exuded health and energy.
He was part of a Siberian division that had been sent to defend the Soviet capital in December 1941. ‘During the counter-attacks [against the Germans],’ he said, ‘there was man to man fighting. We had to fight the Germans in the trenches. And the fitter ones survived and the weaker ones died… We had bayonets on our rifles and I was very strong – I could pierce him [the German soldier] with a bayonet and throw him out of the trench… It’s the same as piercing a loaf of bread.’