Vasily Shishkin knew it and he knew it well.
In 1946, he, a soldier, comes home from the war to find his house dilapidated and in urgent need of repair. He goes to the authorities to ask for timber and is given none: the country is being rebuilt after the war, every log is worth its weight in gold.
"Hold on for a little while, man," they told him.
Nor was the forester of any help.
"I am not allowed to give out wood," he shook his head.
Determined to fix his house, Vasily decides to break the rule. He takes his axe and saw and goes to the holy grove, where he cuts the pines night after night.
He thought no one would notice. But how could a thing like that go unnoticed in a village?
One night Vasily heard a knock on his window. The village men came to talk to him.
"We aren't here to moralize you. You are a grown-up man," they said. "But you did a bad thing, Vasily. What you are doing isn't right for the village. This is against ancestral memory. That grove was used for Easter Egg Roll, women went there for holy water and to pray to the Tikhvin Mother of God for the children and for protection against fires. No one ever cut down trees in there. We don't think it's wise of you. Have you no fear of God?
What do you say to that? Vasily made a helpless gesture.
"I am sorry, guys," he says. "My house was about to collapse and I couldn't let it happen. I'll deal with the consequences."