In the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, the intermission had just ended.
It was exactly 9:30 p.m. A woman announcer in a black dress stepped to the platform. Said she: "In the name of the fatherland there will be a salute to the gallant warriors of the First Ukrainian front who have broken the defenses of the Germans 20 volleys of artillery from 224 guns." The dark days of Stalingrad were over; the Polish offensive of January 1945 had begun.
As she spoke, the first distant volley shook the hall. A...