“I wasn’t scared of bullets, but didn’t want to die of starvation” – war veteran
World War II veterans recount their stories about the war, how it began and what happened in the very first days of the fighting.
Georgy Papava, Georgian field radio operator for the infantry who was also a prisoner of war, said that when you are fighting in a war, you do not lose your human dignity – but when you are taken captive, they treat you like an animal.
“You are no longer a human, it is a heavy blow. There was a POW camp in Feodosia [in Crimea]. The Nazis lined us up into rows of five. They started counting us from first to last and every fifth one was asked to step aside and they were executed. I was number four so I was not shot,” he said.
The veteran also recalled how he and some others escaped from the concentration camp before they were about to be shot dead.
“Bullets ripped my clothes but I didn’t get a scratch. We ran deep into the woods and collapsed there. The next day I found out about the railway – that was where the frontline would be – and we went in that direction. And our army was there – Russians! They gave us porridge and meat, but later they took it away as we didn’t even chew the food. We were so hungry – we swallowed entire pieces of it. They were scared we would eat ourselves to death.”
Vladislaus Buklovskis, a mortar gunner from Latvia, clearly remembers the cruelty of the Nazis he faced during the war, though he was a boy then.
“I was on vacation at home, taking a break from my studies at school. There was a cemetery three kilometers away from us. My father said that there was a Nazi order for all the people in the village to take spades and go. I did not know where and why,” he remembers. “When we came, we saw a big pit, a ditch around 50 meters deep. The bottom was covered with sand. It turned out that 800 Jews had been shot dead.”
“Soviet soldiers or reconnaissance officers – I am not sure who they were exactly – were hiding in one of the villages. The village was burnt down, and all its residents were shot dead, women and children.”