“There were never divisions along ethnic lines in the Army” – WWII remembered
World War II veterans recount their stories about the war, how it began and what happened in the very first days of the fighting.
Nikolais Kartlins who served as an artillery man in the 130th Latvian regiment, says that although many of his fellow soldiers did not know Russian, they were comfortable in joining the Red Army.
“I volunteered myself like many Latvians. I was not drafted. We were happy. We were taking part in the liberation of our own homeland, and our bigger homeland. Many did not know Russian,” Nikolais Kartlins says. “The war was a trial. On the other hand, being there was like you were having a family and a home. There were never divisions along ethnic lines.”
Resident of pre-war Warsaw, Kuperveis Tobyash recalls how the Nazis grabbed him as a seventeen-year-old and were going to shoot him.
“A young soldier walked me into the yard which was totally destroyed. You know, it was stunning to see those cells as if the front wall of the house was removed and you see all those rooms, fully furnished, as if people still lived there. There was a piano standing on the ground floor, so I ran my fingers along the keyboard, showing some practice. That German asked me – hey, can you play? I sat on the fragment of the wall and began playing a Beethoven sonata. I only played like one page as I remember, and he said: Well done, you are a good player, and now run!” Kuperveis Tobyash remembers.