Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores, January 2019
Reviewed by Jeffrey Steven Abrams
“The Ice Angel of Leningrad” by Eugene Morgulis
This heartfelt story follows Sveta, an eleven-year-old girl living through the infamous 1941 German Siege of Leningrad. While struggling to survive, her younger brother dies from starvation. Later, she becomes permanently separated from her mother at a chaotic train station. Down to skin and bones herself, Sveta meets Death. For reasons revealed later, he spares her.
The train deposits her in a lakeside village, far from the battle. Standing along the shore, a gust of wind blows a cherished postcard from her hands and without thinking, she chases it until she’s in the middle of the frozen lake, lost in fog.
Like in the movie Gravity, an argument can be made that Sveta actually dies here. What follows is a series of surrealistic visions, including a visit from her deceased brother. Ultimately, she meets Death again, and using her wits, beats him at his own game and becomes legendary.
Beautifully written, Ice Angel is still a difficult story to read. It is filled with constant, unrelenting, pain, much like reading Solzhenitsyn. Hidden throughout, however, are gems of wisdom; my favorite being Death’s quote, “Even with this war, I eat and eat, and still I can’t get enough.”
The story is dedicated to the author’s grandmother, who survived the 900 day Siege of Leningrad 75 years ago.