City of Thieves

City of Thieves Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lev and Kolya, having decided to spend the night in Lev’s apartment at the Kirov, talk freely and easily about Kolya's excellent punch at the giant's wife. Lev shares that, during the war, you couldn't allow too much truth or thought into your conversations as a method of self-preservation. Despite that, though, Lev can't get the image of a child's ribcage in the cannibals' apartment out of his head, and he can barely nibble on the “library candy.”
Lev succinctly describes how storytelling becomes a method of preservation when faced with the horrors of the war. But even that sort of self-protection is barely enough to protect oneself from the trauma of the siege, as Lev’s inability to escape the image of the butchered bodies shows.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
Lev apologizes for not going back to save Kolya, which Kolya laughs at, admitting that he was the "country fool" who insisted on going up to the giant's apartment. Lev feels better and compliments Kolya again on his punch, saying that the woman won't be eating children anymore. Kolya smiles for a moment, but Lev remarks to the reader that they're living in a city with the witch Baba Yaga snatching children.
Lev’s comment about the witch Baba Yaga – a witch from Russian folklore – provides an extremely concrete example of the idea that while stories can be used to protect oneself from the horrors of reality, the fairy tales that the people of Leningrad grew up with are also being made gruesomely real by the siege in a way not previously thought possible. On one hand, this dynamic implies just how insane the situation of the siege is. On the other hand, though, it underlines the inherent truths hidden within such fairy tales: that humanity, when pressed to extremes, can actually commit the sorts of gruesome crimes that are usually safely contained within such tales. Even the most fantastical of stories can speak a kind of truth.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Sirens begin and Kolya announces that Fritz (the German army) is coming. He and Lev walk faster and listen to the shells from German bombers landing near the Kirov Works, where tanks and heavy artillery are built. Suddenly Kolya stops, and he and Lev hear someone playing the piano in an apartment building. They stand and listen, and Lev shares that while music was important in his family, he'd never heard that music before and hasn't heard it since.
The term “Fritz” is used by the Russians to refer to the German army. It is a kind of ethnic insult, and in using it the Russians find a way to voice their defiance of the Germans even as they are besieged by them. Hearing the piano provides a brief reprieve from the horrors of the war, but it also signals all that was lost to Lev because of the rise of the Soviet and Nazi regimes.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
When they resume their march, Kolya and Lev begin arguing over the evacuation of famous people from the city. Lev insists that it'd be bad for morale if famous people died, but Kolya believes that the outrage that would certainly come after a famous individual's heroic war death would be a positive, adding that he doesn't like hypocrites.
Even as the novel will turn increasingly toward Kolya and Lev’s interactions with the German invaders, it never loses sight of the unfairness and hypocrisy on the Russian side of the war. Lev’s sense of the correctness of protecting famous people hints at his remaining idealism, as he believes that there is a kind of Russian pride that must be kept up to boost the morale of the people. Kolya’s charge that such actions are hypocritical, with the implication that the common people are fighting a war for the elite without the elite ever having to suffer, seems more realistic, though. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting the irony of this conversation, as Lev and Kolya are being forced by the powerful on a ridiculous quest.
Themes
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon
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Lev and Kolya turn onto Lev's street and suddenly Lev comes face to face with a pile of rubble where the Kirov is supposed to be. Lev thinks of the life he had at the Kirov and all the people who made it what it was. He wades into the debris and begins digging, but Kolya grabs him and says that there's another place they can stay. Lev insists people might still be alive in the rubble, but finally follows Kolya away, feeling no real misery, but thinking that there's no one left in the city that knows his full name.
With the fall of the Kirov, Lev becomes truly alone – his former friends are probably dead –except for Kolya. This sets them up to become close friends, as Lev has been forced to turn away from his past. Notice too how Lev describes his mental state. He detaches from any real emotion regarding what's happened, something characters will continue to do throughout the novel.
Themes
Growing Up Theme Icon
Literature and Storytelling Theme Icon
Survival Theme Icon
Russia and World War II Theme Icon