What "winter people" like to say: "It's a dry cold." "You get used to it." "Wear layers." "Any climate is tolerable if you have the right clothing."
But a century ago, many of the materials in cold-weather gear hadn't yet been invented. Most regular folks had to make do with layers and layers of itchy wool.
When the thermometer dips to -35C, it's a stretch to call a walk outdoors with friends "pleasant." Imagine running, hiding, fighting a war when you're cold all the time. When there aren't enough socks in the world to keep your feet warm. When your boots are prized possessions. When it's so cold you can hardly think--just react.
Reading SILENCES: A NOVEL OF THE 1918 FINNISH CIVIL WAR in winter is an excellent reminder of the ever-present discomfort of the first half of the book. Enjoy your windproof jackets, everyone.