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Old 09 Dec 08, 16:15
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Egorka Egorka is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Moscow
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Two new staff personnel had been relocated to our company. Both were senior sergeants – both were girls. In the evenings in our private hours we often held dances to accordion music. Of course dancing was mainly for the youngsters, the older soldiers at best just watched us and listened to the music. As soon as our girl-sergeants appeared on the floor they had no end of us. I danced more with the blonde one. We danced quite well together as we somehow understood each other. Dancing continued for the whole evening until lights-out. The girls were billeted in a private apartment whose owners were a German family, or Swabs [ ] as the locals called them.

Once I was called by the company’s commander, Senior-Lieutenant Sokolov, and ordered to prepare for a journey as his assistant. My food supply and travel warrants had already been issued.

I took my backpack and SVT rifle and returned to my leader. He looked at me and said that I should leave the SVT behind and take a German “Schmeisser” [remark: German submachine gun MP-40] as it was lighter and handier on the road. By the next evening we were already in Hungary, in the town of Szeged. Here we were to visit the commandant’s office and get our travel warrants stamped. When the town’s commandant noticed that I had a German gun he ordered me to hand it in as a prohibition had just been issued on the use of captured weapons. That is how I lost a brand new “Schmeisser” and got instead a piece of paper to present to our armament depot. And so without a weapon I accompanied Senior-Lieutenant Sokolov until we reached the Yugoslavian town of Sombor. We took a very long and very tedious ride on a train carrying American trucks, “Studebakers”, to the front. After the Yugoslavian town of Subotica the train came under fire from a German aircraft. But it didn't cause any damage. We travelled on a wagon’s brake platform and were so frozen through so that our teeth were chattering. The commander now and then sipped from a rum bottle, which, with some foresight, he had purchased in Szeged at an exorbitant price. I also got a sip. We got into conversation – something that he did not normally do. by nature he was a rude person, especially with his subordinates. He was not particular in his choice of words. He knew about me, that I used to be a student, spent 2,5 years under occupation in Odessa and that my parents live in Siberia. After the incident with the German plane he started to tell me about himself, about the scrapes he got into during the last 4 years of war. He started in the Finish campaign. He was a native of the town of Kalinin, where his parents lived. He was not married. I knew that he was courting Katusha - a young Georgian girl-sergeant from the logistic section. I remember his description of the retreat across the sea-strait in 1942 near the town of Kerch. The only thing that saved his life was a log of wood he found on the beach. The Germans shelled and bombed the strait constantly. It was real hell. It was a miracle he survived. Many of his comrades had not managed to cross the strait – either killed or captured.

on revers: “To parents from their son. Town Galati, 1-XII-44.

The town of Sombor (Yugoslavia) we reached the next morning. We stayed at a private house whose owner was a Russian expatriate from the Don area. I understood that they were “white emigrants” [ remark: ], because she was complaining of the Soviet authorities about her husband being arrested as soon as the Soviet army liberated Sombor. Her husband was a Cossack officer and during the monarchy in Yugoslavia he had lectured in a Russian Cadet Corps. She kept asking what fate awaited her husband. We diplomatically replied that if during the emigration he did not work against the Soviet authorities, against the USSR, then he should come back. I asked her if she had read the Sholokhov’s novel “And Quiet Flows the Don”. No, she had not. Judging from their home’s setting they lived well: everything was neat and furnished in an urban manner, 3 or 4 rooms in a detached house with garden. She treated us like we were related, like we had known each other forever, trying to adapt to our tastes. My officer fell to drinking more and more rum or “palinka” and one night decided to sneak into her bedroom. But she had had the foresight to lock the door from the inside. That saved her. In the morning we did not know which way to look from embarrassment.

The company’s commander finished his task and we set off on the return journey. The next stop was in the Yugoslavian town of Subotica. On foot we took a sightseeing tour of the town, the central area of which has stuck in my memory.
[ to be continued ]
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