Steinbeck’s parting shot on leaving Kiev a few years after the end of the war had razed the country, celebrates their resilience and determination. Their invitation to him to come back also signals a confidence in their own reconstructive capacity. Whether they were allowed to fulfil that potential proved doubtful, making it all the more poignant.
All praise to intelligent, laughing people with humour and energy.
‘They were intelligent, laughing people, people with a sense of humor, and people with energy. In the ruins of their country they had set out doggedly to build new houses, new factories, new machinery, and a new life. And they said to us again and again, “Come back in a few years and see what we will have accomplished.”‘
Source: John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal, with photographs by Robert Capa (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999 (1948)), p. 108
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