It is very likely that chapter 7 of Stones in Water takes place in 1941, but it could be early 1942. Evidence from the chapter that supports the identification of these years pertains to events that occurred during World War Two. The war raged in Europe from 1939 to 1945. Within this period, the specific events referenced relate to the 1941 German invasion and occupation of Ukraine, which was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. From their base in this part of the Soviet Union, the German forces advanced into Russia (the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic).
The most specific evidence of the date is the boys’ involvement in maintaining an airstrip. By this point in the novel, Roberto and Enzo (the former Samuele), who have become separated from Sergio and Memo, have traveled far from Italy and have been sent by truck to Ukraine. The narrator implies that the German attacks are already underway.
The whole idea was for the Germans to have an airstrip here, near enemy lines, so they could refuel planes on their way to and returning from attacks on Russian airports, factories, and cities.
The code name for this massive invasion, which was initiated in June 1941 along an 1,800 mile stretch of territory, was Operation Barbarossa. Although the German forces were generally victorious in Ukraine and some other Soviet territories, they ultimately did not succeed in taking Moscow in the winter of 1941–1942.