“I saw people die after surgery, die from TB…It was mind-boggling” – war veteran
World War II veterans recount their stories about the war, its effects and its human perspective.
Anisya Zenkova was a senior medical nurse in the 160th Infantry Division. She worked at a medical and sanitary battalion.
“I remember one day we were in a surgery ward. A lull in the fighting. No gunfire. No nothing. All of a sudden the door burst open and we saw a mud covered man in a cape. We rushed to him, shouting ‘Where do you think you are going?’ Just like that. And then he collapsed,” Zenkova recalls.
The man had a very serious injury. He had been hit by dum-dum bullet in his belly.
“Thank God he caught it not far from where we were based,” the war veteran remembers. “The surgery was a very protracted one, of course. We had to rinse everything and put it in place and to discard bits of the gut and to sew it. Quite a long operation. But I want to say, he survived it. He was holding out and he pulled through the surgery and survived.”
Another time, a soldier whose toes were smashed by a bullet died right on the operating table.
“He was so tense, so scared of his own blood and surgery that his heart gave way. We failed to save him,” Anisya Zenkova tells.
She also recalls the situation with the former inmates of Majdanek concentration camp: “Our hospital was converted into therapy by that time. We were accepting the inmates who hardly looked like humans. We were helping and treating them. Many had TB. People with TB have dilated pupils, which makes them quite beautiful. Their eyes and skin shine. Some even predicted their own death. They said, ‘I’ll die tomorrow’, and that’s what happened. I saw people die after surgery, die in hospital, die from TB. Six or seven died every night. It was mind-boggling.”
Viktor Novikov, a child of besieged Leningrad, Russia, recounts that when he came to school on the first of September, the school had been turned into a hospital:
“Vehicles were bringing wounded, no one cared that we were there. Just a few of us were left, though."
“We started helping carrying wounded in,” he recalls. “Our teacher showed up and said that school was probably over. There was no official information and we did not know what to do next. Naturally our living became very difficult. My mom and I were worried and hungry,” he says.
Then Viktor’s mother started going to church, and he visited her sometimes.
“There I saw father Evgeny. He ended his ceremony with the words ‘to save our Motherland’,” Novikov remembers. “And then Elder Buldakov went along the arras with a silver tray collecting everything people could give, like money or jewelry. I was standing next to my mom when Buldakov went by, and my mom gave him our money and a little note. I asked ‘What are you doing, mom?’ And she replied, ‘Don’t worry, Vik. We WILL get help.’ I don’t know how it was organized and how the money was allocated, but one day we were back to school. And the next day we were expecting to see new tanks purchased with our money. That was SUCH an event!”