4 out of 4 stars
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Beware the Wolves by Victor Moss is a fictionalized account of his parents’ survival during WWII in Russia. The story starts with Captain Vladimir Moskalkov looking at a burned-down village. During the war, it was one of Stalin’s decrees that residents evacuate and burn their villages to avoid them being captured and used as bases by the advancing Germans.
Vladimir was not only a captain but also a medic, so his first duty was always to the wounded and the sick. Finding medicine was an ongoing struggle during the war when medical supplied were as scarce as bread itself.
Disobeying a direct order from his superior, Vladimir, with a few comrades, sneaked out to search the destroyed village for supplies. He was lucky, as he found some much-needed medicine, but his act of defiance angered the Colonel who, out of spite, sent him to the battlefield, in the direct line of fire, to care for the injured.
And so starts Vladimir’s real journey during the gruesome and merciless war. Sometimes the story would switch to the past where the author described how Vladimir met Vladyslava, a fellow medical student, who would become his wife. Some chapters were also told from Slava’s point of view, allowing us to experience her own struggles during the war while waiting for the return of her husband.
The story is compelling, and while I have read countless WWII fiction and non-fiction books over the years (I was born in Eastern Europe, so this topic is quite close to me), I thoroughly enjoyed reading Beware the Wolves. It often reads like an action-packed war novel, although you are never allowed to forget that the war was real and you were reading about the lives of two real people deeply affected by it. I found it quite hard to read about Vladimir’s capture by the Germans, his long march to one of the Nazi concentration camps, and his life under terrible conditions at the camp. This part was really heartwrenching.
At times, I was amazed by the atrocities humans could inflict on their own race. But then I remembered that these things indeed happened. Some people, under the right conditions, can become true monsters.
While the end of the book reads almost like a fairy tale, I kept thinking of the millions of others whose fates were sealed by enemy bullets or later at the Nazi camps. Not everyone was as lucky as the Russian couple who, eventually, managed to immigrate to the US, which is where their son, the author, was born.
I found the story difficult to put down once I started reading it. The characters felt real with all the sorrow, pain, and moments of happiness they felt during the war. My only complaint would be about the ending. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ending, but I found it slightly rushed. While the rest of the book went into painstaking details about the day-to-day lives of Vladimir, and to a lesser degree, Slava, the end wrapped the story quite fast. I am assuming that we will get to learn what happened with the couple in the second book which picks up their adventure right where Beware the Wolves ends.
The book was properly edited and was, generally, well written. I found only a few grammatical and punctuation errors, such as “Tanya, is a Feldsher” where there should be no comma, and some missing periods at the end of a few sentences. Therefore, I give Beware the Wolves 4 out of 4 stars and recommend it to anyone who loves reading historical fiction and non-fiction books, especially those focusing on WWII.
Beware the Wolves
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