City of Thieves

City of Thieves Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Vika, Kolya, Lev, and the other prisoners are awakened in the morning as the Germans pry the nails from the door. They shout at the prisoners to move, but as the line begins to file out, someone in the shed cries out. Kolya and Lev are curious but Vika seems uninterested. Lev and Kolya sidle to the other side of the shed and see Markov's accuser dead on the floor, his throat slashed. The prisoners begin to take the dead man's gloves and boots. Kolya grabs the man's hat.
Once the man is dead, he becomes purely a commodity, as the other prisoners take his belongings. This reminds the reader of how desperate the situation is, as the man's boots have the potential to save another prisoner from death. Vika's disinterest is suspicious, and suggests that she may have killed the man.
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A soldier enters the shed, irritated, and mutters something to himself. Kolya answers in German. Outside, Kolya tells Lev that he told the German that the peasants hate Jews more than the Germans do. Lev questions the wisdom of letting the Germans know that Kolya speaks German. Kolya agrees it's dangerous, but says the Germans will stop speaking as though they can't be understood.
The Nazis now understand that one of their prisoners surely has a weapon of some sort, which undermines their power to a degree. Kolya sacrifices the protection of anonymity by letting his captors know he speaks their language, which also attracts attention to him.
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The soldiers line up the prisoners and offer them dry biscuits, and then the prisoners and the company begin to march south on the road. As they pass a sign for Mga, Lev and Kolya realize it's Wednesday and that they're supposed to be back in Piter with eggs tomorrow. Kolya realizes he hasn't had a bowel movement in 13 days now, and wonders how that's even possible. One of the prisoners tells Kolya to boil buckthorn.
In a recurring comic motif, Kolya is still keeping track of his nonexistent bowel movements. This entire passage is humorous, as Lev and Kolya finally figure out where Mga is, and are also reminded of the original absurdity of their quest.
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Kolya tells a joke that Lev deems old and not funny. Lev asks if Kolya thinks Vika killed the prisoner in the shed. Kolya believes she certainly did. He says she's a talented killer, is likely lying about her past, and is actually NKVD. Lev expresses disbelief, but Kolya points out that the partisans wouldn't just trust a girl who showed up out of nowhere.
Despite the seeming hopelessness of their situation, Kolya retains his sense of humor and his love of logic. While he's probably right, Lev will now be forced to reconcile his negative feelings about the NKVD with his attraction to Vika.
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Kolya wonders out loud if Vika has breasts, annoying Lev. Kolya apologizes for offending Lev and asks if he really likes Vika. Kolya wonders out loud how Lev should impress Vika, since a demonstration of strength and toughness probably won't work.
Lev is becoming somewhat protective of Vika, and resents Kolya's tendency to assess women's bodies. However, Kolya quickly attempts to spin this around and seem helpful.
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As Kolya ponders Lev's assets that might impress Vika, the prisoners are waved off the road to let a German convoy pass. Lev counts 40 flatbed trucks, followed by armored cars, mortars, and light trucks carrying troopers. One of the artillery pieces in the front of the line slips a tread, and while some soldiers hurry to fix it, the others jump out of the stopped vehicles to urinate along the side of the road.
Watching the convoy pass, it becomes apparent that such a display of military strength means the war is still far from over. It's also suggested that Lev and Kolya cannot be successful based on strength alone.
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Vika, having silently crept up behind Lev and Kolya, makes a jab about Lev and Kolya being attracted to each other, and points to a car at the end of the convoy. She says that it's Abendroth's, and decides she'll take a shot at it when the convoy starts moving again. Lev points out that they and all the prisoners will die whether Vika hits Abendroth or not, and Vika declares that the prisoners are worth sacrificing to take down Abendroth. Kolya confirms that she's suggesting that they are chess pawns and Abendroth is a rook. Kolya suddenly smiles, and tells Vika and Lev to wait.
The use of chess as a metaphor to discuss the characters’ place in the conflict then shifts to chess itself being used as a tangible plot device. Finally, Lev, Kolya, and Vika have encountered Abendroth. This slow build to actually meeting him creates a great deal of tension and suspense, as we assume that a climactic conflict is approaching.
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Despite Vika's protests, Kolya approaches the nearest group of soldiers and begins speaking to them in German, and within a minute the Germans are sharing their cigarettes with him. Vika remarks that Kolya has charm, and that Kolya and Lev are a strange couple. Lev denies that he and Kolya are a couple, and Vika calls Lev "Lyova" and says she knows he likes girls. Lev thinks that his father called him Lyova, and it seems strange but natural coming from Vika. Vika asks Lev if Kolya made him angry when he teased Lev about wanting to see Vika naked, but Lev finds that he cannot answer appropriately or handle the highs and lows of the last few days, and also can't figure out if Vika is flirting with him or not.
Kolya's charm is apparent, as he's even able to talk his enemies and captors into sharing a cigarette. Vika's use of “Lyova” begins to create a link in Lev's mind between Vika and his father, and family in general. Lev is trying to truly engage with Vika in the moment, but his exhaustion keeps him from truly being able to communicate. Vika also finally appears truly interested in Lev, whether Lev can tell or not.
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Vika asks Lev about his father, and asks if Lev wants to be a poet. Meanwhile Kolya appears to be delivering a very grand lecture, pointing at Lev. The soldiers look doubtful, but one runs back to the end of the convoy. Kolya cracks a final joke and returns to Lev and Vika, sharing that he told the soldiers he had a wager for Abendroth that 15-year-old Lev could beat Abendroth at chess without a queen. When Lev protests that he's 17, Kolya declares that 15 is more of an insult. Vika angrily asks if Kolya is joking, and lists all the reasons such a plan would make Abendroth suspicious—but Kolya says that'll make him agree to it.
Kolya is banking on Abendroth's pride, curiosity, and the guaranteed suspicion that such a request will raise. Here, Lev's youth is considered a positive, and the fact that he can essentially "pass" for 15 works to heighten the hurt pride that Abendroth will experience should he lose.
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Kolya explains that if Lev loses the chess game, Abendroth can shoot them all, and if Lev wins, Abendroth sets them free. When Vika says he'll never actually set them free, Kolya insists that they'll at least have a good shot at him, inside and in semi-private. Just then the mechanic fixing the busted track finishes, and the infantrymen load back into the trucks. The trooper who ran to the back of the convoy jogs back and yells "tonight" to Kolya. Lev asks what else Kolya asked for, and Kolya replies that he asked for a dozen eggs.
Following Kolya's plan, our protagonists won't have to necessarily sacrifice all of the prisoners in order to get a shot at Abendroth. Kolya is certainly playing on the absurdity of them being out looking for eggs. Nobody thus far has believed him, and it makes an intriguing story, both for the reader and for the characters he and Lev encounter.
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