In 2020, the anniversary of the victory over Nazism is celebrating. Seventy-five years ago, my great-grandfather returned from the war. He was terribly injured but alive. I am writing this essay not only for people who now read it as much for myself because I am the only descendant of my great-grandfather, a World War II veteran.
My great-grandfather Alexander was born in a small village in the Russian Empire 3 years before the Soviet Union appeared. After the revolution, the Bolsheviks considered his father too rich - he had several cows, so his father's property was confiscated and he was exiled to Siberia. He left 3 sons, including my great-grandfather Alexander. Since they were children of an untrustworthy man they were also about to be prosecuted but World War II broke out and they were sent there.
I remember many of his stories from the war, but one I remember the most. Alexander ended up in an infantry division. In 1942, he was located near the small town of Ryazan in Russia. It was winter. In winter, the air temperature in Russia drops to -20C (-4 F). Even though that fierce battles were fought between the army of the Soviet Union and Germany, everything calmed down at night. The soldiers slept in the trenches and tried to keep warm. At night, the frost is the most severe, the wind disperses the clouds and you can even see the stars, but this cools the air even more. All soldiers have a hard night and usually, the fighting between the sides dies down. There seems to be a tacit agreement between the soldiers on both sides not to attack each other at night.
Each member of the military unit has its own task. Someone does not sleep and is on guard, my great-grandfather was a machine gunner and his task was to monitor the proper operation of machine gun called Maxim. These machine guns can jam if they spend a long time in the cold, so every few hours my grandfather would shoot short bursts from it to warm up. He talked with his friends about family, about children, they all dreamed of returning home soon. Such dreams can only be indulged in quiet time at night. The time was already approaching when Alexander had to leave, the last time he warmed up the machine gun 2 hours ago, but he really did not want to leave the trench into the cold wind. Alexander wanted to get up and leave, but his friend tried to persuade him to stay for a few more minutes. The friend wanted to tell the story about his brother. So another hour passed and now Alexander had to warm up the machine gun at all costs because otherwise, it would become a useless piece of metal that could protect you from the enemy. Alexander left the trench, lit a cigarette, and slowly walked towards the machine gun. It was a quiet night, but the wind instantly made him shrink.
At the same moment, when Alexander reached the machine gun, a grenade flew into the trench where his friends were. In the complete silence of the night, there was a deafening explosion, my great-grandfather fell to the ground. An intolerable noise was in his ears because the grenade exploded very close. After his shock passed, he realized that his friends who were sitting in the trench were gone. The trench itself was gone, and only a deep hole gaped in the ground.
My great-grandfather remembers this incident very well, after this incident his hearing could not be restored for a long time. There were other stories as well. It seemed that God himself was leading my great-grandfather through the hell of war. He was later wounded in the stomach and had to crawl several kilometers to receive medical attention, but he survived. He was the only one of the 3 brothers who returned alive from the war. He often recalled the day when he did not want to leave the trench for a long time. Was he afraid to interrupt his friend's story? Or did fate itself not allow him to be interrupted so that Alexander did not have time to return? No one was supposed to die that cold night, but it happened. My grandfather survived thanks to a series of coincidences because if he did not need to interrupt to warm up the machine gun, he would have remained in that trench. I try to appreciate the fact that my great-grandfather came back alive. This means that I do not live in vain.