Shortly after the New Year’s holiday, Elena becomes gravely ill and retreats to her bed. Kracha stays by her side while the doctor examines her. When Borka asks if they should call a priest, the doctor quietly answers yes, but assures the group that he will return in the morning. Kracha stays with Elena, and she tells him she is sorry that “[she] could not be the kind of wife [he] wanted.” Kracha tells her to never mind such things now and that she must rest. Elena dies quietly before the doctor returns. Kracha tells his daughters and, after giving Elena a large funeral, “one of the most lavish the First Ward had witnessed in years,” they bury her in the Irish cemetery. Zuska does not attend the funeral, much to Francka’s approval. She suspects that Kracha will resume his affair with Zuska, but Andrej urges her not to interfere.
Elena’s death is the second significant loss in Kracha’s life, following the death of Dubik. Her slow, withering demise is symbolic of the types of miserable existences that women in steel towns must endure. As with so many other women, Elena’s husband and family take what they can from her without much appreciation until she eventually wears down to the point of no return. Even after her death, Kracha only offers her mild sympathy, as he stopped truly caring for her years before. Just as the steel town claimed Dubik’s life, it claims Elena’s life with equal indifference.