City of Thieves

City of Thieves Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Before noon, the partisan standing guard wakes the group and says that the Nazis are coming. Lev, Kolya, and the partisans run from the cabin as they hear German voices shouting. Lev thinks that he's becoming an animal driven by fear, the warm snow sucking at his boots.
This entire scene is a very lucid experience for Lev as he struggles with the very real possibility that he could die at any minute.
Themes
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Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Lev says that when he was nine, Communists from France visited Piter, and the streets were spruced up for them. Lev had been watching with Oleg and Grisha as workmen poured fresh tar onto the street outside the Kirov. Silently, the three took off their shoes and ran across the street, leaving footprints in the soft tar. It took Lev's mother an hour to scrub the tar off his feet, but his father smiled at the trails of footprints in the road from the window. Lev says that running through melting snow and wet tar are entirely different, but somehow the memories exist together.
The reader is asked to consider the sometimes nonsensical nature of memory, and how humans naturally look for patterns and relationships between memories and experiences. The reader also gets a glimpse into what Lev's life was like before his father was taken, and what kind of a person Abraham Beniov really was. He seems to be easily charmed by childish actions like this, encouraging consideration of what he might think of Lev and Kolya's absurd journey in the present.
Themes
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Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
As Lev runs, he sees a partisan shot down. He thinks that right now, had a German caught him and asked his name, he wouldn't be able to answer. Korsakov turns to shoot at the Germans and is shot in the jaw. Lev keeps running down into a gulley and turns to follow the stream. When he has to stop he hides behind a tree and peers up the hill, where three people are jogging towards him. They turn out to be Kolya, Vika, and a partisan called Markov. Lev is paralyzed by fear and can't call or wave to them, but Vika notices Lev and they run towards him.
The run continues to unfold in a very lucid way in Lev's mind. He experiences these scattered thoughts and witnesses people dying around him. It's gruesome and terrifying, but it's important to note that Lev does turn out to be physically able to outrun the Germans for a little while at least.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Kolya tries to pull Lev up to keep going, but Germans are already coming over the hilltop. With the Germans is a large group of prisoners, some without coats or hats. Markov wants to shoot at these soldiers, who are just infantry, but Vika counsels that Abendroth travels with this company and must be close. Lev thinks of Zoya as Vika suggests they mix in with the prisoners, saying that the prisoners have already been searched for weapons so their pistols will make it through. She hides her rifle and instructs Markov to do the same. Kolya seems pleased with the idea. Markov is decidedly not excited about it.
Vika is logical in a similar way that Kolya is, which makes it understandable that Kolya is entirely willing to go along with her plan. We see also how dedicated she is to finding and killing Abendroth. She's willing to risk her life and the life of her current companions in order to find Abendroth, and is willing to give up her rifle as well. She is clearly much more experienced, capable, and focused than either Lev or Kolya.
Themes
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
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Markov finally agrees, hides his rifle, and pulls a grenade out of a pouch. They wait until the prisoners have started passing their tree and Markov throws the grenade over the group, where it explodes, attracting attention to the far side of the group. In the confusion, Markov, Vika, Lev, and Kolya walk out and join the prisoners, who seem unsurprised and defeated.
The reader is asked to consider how beaten down and detached from reality these prisoners must be in order to simply accept new prisoners joining their ranks out of the trees as a normal occurrence.
Themes
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All the prisoners are male. Two are Red Army and walk only in socks, their boots likely confiscated by the Germans. The Germans seem relatively calm about the explosion, and Kolya translates that they think it was a land mine. The Germans signal to continue, but then one of the prisoners shouts, pointing to Markov, saying that Markov is a partisan. A German translator steps in, but the prisoner continues to berate Markov. Markov pulls a pistol on the prisoner, but the Germans are faster and shoot him first.
We learn here that Kolya speaks German, which gives our protagonists an advantage now that they're prisoners of Germans. The reader is certainly asked to wonder what the prisoner who accuses Markov possibly has to gain from outing him, as there's plenty of evidence to support that this man won't be rewarded for doing so.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
The company resumes its march with six Russian prisoners walking in front, serving as minesweepers. Nobody walks next to the man who accused Markov. Lev, Kolya, and Vika walk together, talking quietly. Kolya glares at the prisoner and discusses killing him, but Vika declares that he doesn't matter. Kolya affectionately says that Lev plays great chess, and the three argue about their relative importance to each other. Kolya ends by declaring he's especially important since he's writing a great novel.
The man who accused Markov is now a marked man and seen as a traitor, and it's unclear what will happen to him now that he doesn't have the group support of his fellow prisoners. It becomes apparent here how much importance Kolya places on writing and authors, as his declaration that he's more important because of his writing places him above other soldiers or prisoners.
Themes
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The procession slows as one of the Russian prisoners without boots gives up on walking. He raises a hand in a mock Nazi salute, and Lev looks away.
Even though this man dies at the hands of Nazis, he still finds agency and defiance by deciding on the time of his death.
Themes
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon