'The cold was terrible, undreamt-of'

We were sitting there, next to the leftovers of yesterday's now-cold fire and waiting to hear the signal. [...] The cold was terrible, undreamt-of. From the cold your soul actually hurt and like a baby you wanted to start crying for no reason, not knowing what you were crying for or what good it would do. You couldn't move one step as there was no space, so you were standing there immobile, numb, as if your mind itself had frozen, from time to time hitting one hand with the other, as in the 'despair' line of Solomos. As for your feet you didn't know if you still had them.

(Y. Beratis, To platy potami, Athens, Ermis, 1992, p. 145)

'The arm cracked like glass'

One night a soldier, the son of a general, died of cold. He was on guard, he fell into a torpor in the cold and when they changed duties they found him frozen. They took him by the arm to lift him up, but his arm cracked and fell off like glass. The major was scared lest other lads die in the night and decided to have fewer duties, to keep only the vanguards with sub-machine-guns, in order that fewer soldiers would be exposed to the snow-storm... One dawn the major heard the sub-machine-guns firing and rushed to see what was going on. It wasn't an Italian attack, as he thought, but a soldier had again frozen and his companions were shooting their machine guns to heat their barrels and warm his frozen body with them.

(Christos Zalokostas, PINDOS, in: Chatzipatera-Phaphaliou, Martyries 1940-1941, Athens, Kedros, 1982, p. 216)

The march to the front

Night after night we would walk without stop, one after the other, like the blind, with difficulty ungluing our feet from the mud where at times they sank knee-deep. More often it was drizzling in the streets outside as it was drizzling in our souls. And the few times we stopped to relax, we wouldn't say a word, staying grave and taciturn. Shining a small torch, we would share raisins one by one. Or there were times, if it was convenient, when we would quickly undo our clothes and scratch ourselves with rage for hours on end, till the blood started dripping. For the lice has reached our necks, and this was more insufferable than tiredness. Then sometimes a whistle was heard in the dark, a sign that we were starting, and again like beasts we shuffled forward to gain time, before it was dawn and we became the target of aeroplanes. For God didn't know of targets and such stuff, and as is his custom, he always made the light of day dawn at the same time. Then hidden in the gullies, we would lean our heads towards the heavy side, where no dreams came out. Even the birds were angry with us, because we didn't pay any attention to their words - and maybe because we made the world ugly for no reason.

(Odysseus Elytis, TO AXION ESTI, in: Chatzipatera-Phafaliou, Martyries 1940-1941, Athens, Kedros, 1982, p. 168)