In Voroshilovgrad, Herman and a few of his friends attended a funeral. At one point, a priest evidently arrived in an ambulance:

An ambulance rolled up to the building a bit later. A young man hopped out wearing a formal suit and tucking a folder under his arm.
"The priest is here," someone said, and everyone hurried to the main doors to greet the new arrival.

Why would a priest arrive in an ambulance, wearing a suit? Also, the hymn that the priest selected was Shtundist, not Catholic.

Can someone explain this to me?

1 Answer 1


We see the ambulance being used as what amounts to a community taxi elsewhere in the book. As the novel says, that's just how things worked there.

Evidently, the alcohol was demolishing him—after lunch he was piss drunk, and around three Injured called the ambulance. They came and took Petrovich back home to rest. That’s just the way things were done around there. I sat there listening to Kocha.


When the hymn was over, everyone in attendance joined in for some slightly more familiar church songs—and further songs as well as off-key if energetic violin screeches accompanied the departed as she was carried out of the apartment, feet first. Her immediate relatives brought along her personal possessions. As Ernst explained, it was unacceptable for anybody else to touch them. Mom was shoved in the back of the ambulance, while Tamara and Tamila, as well as Kocha and the three-man musical ensemble, took seats in the front. The rest of the relatives, friends, and acquaintances took their own cars over to the cemetery. A tractor with an open trailer was provided for the very poorest relations—roughly two-dozen Georgian Gypsies jammed themselves into the back, and then the funeral procession got underway.

As to why the priest was in the ambulance, it's possible that he was at the hospital performing visits to the sick (or perhaps using their Xerox machine) or he may simply have called it because he needed a ride.

  • I can't answer the question of why he selected a Shtundist hymn. It's possible that he's just selected something the locals will know.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 18:43

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