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My Grandfather's fascinating story in the Red Army

Discussion in 'What Granddad did in the War' started by yswo, Mar 24, 2011.

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  1. yswo

    yswo Member

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    My Grandfather lived in what was then the part of Poland taken over by Stalin in 1939. He was 23 at the time. For no reason at all he was sent to a labor camp in Siberia. One day he was doing work and saw the guards were not looking, he and a friend of his made a run for it. My grandfather got to the nearest recruiting office for the Soviet Army. At that point they were desperate (not sure the exact year, he is deceased now, but I assume June-Dec 41 when Hitler almost cause the collapse of the Red Army), of course they did not know he was an escapee of Siberia. He joined the army for two reasons 1. He wanted to fight the Nazis (he had heard rumors they were killing the Jews, and it turned out his entire village of 250 Jews, his parents, 7 siblings were taken to the forest and shot by the Einsatzgruppen, he was the only survivor, ironically because he was sent to Siberia) 2. He thought the best way of survival was by joining the army. Even then it was far from ideal, he told me once he had to eat raw meat from a dead horse because if they cooked it, it would give their position away to the Nazis.

    He ended up moving up the ranks in the army, he had a great shot and by the end of the war he was commander of a small platoon. I do not know all his accounts from the war (I wish I had asked him more while he was alive) but he ended up fighting in the battle of Berlin. I am not sure if he was in Zhukov's group or the other commanders. I do know that on the last day of the war he got a grenade wound to the ear and was partially deaf in that ear for life.

    At the end of the war, he wanted to start life over. The Red Army wanted him to stay since they were impressed with him so he had to escape from the army. He ran away from the army, met my grandmother moved to America and lead a middle class lifestyle, and provided a great education to my father who became a prestigious doctor.

    That is his story in a nutshell.
     
  2. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Okay, now that we have the nutshell version, can you flesh it out anymore. Sounds like it would be most interesting.
     
  3. yswo

    yswo Member

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    Thanks for your interest. I am sure people have more interesting stories than me but it looks like people are more interested. It is too painful for my grandmother to talk about it, but I am going to ask my father (hopefully today) to give me more details. I will be posting a much more detailed account in the coming days. Thanks for your interest!
     
  4. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Welcome yswo!
    It is these types of stories that make this forum. Looking forward to reading more.
     
  5. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish

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    I second that, Yswo.

    Sadly the 'I wish I'd asked while they were still with us' feeling is all too common.
    I for one would be very interested in any more you can find out; with the gradual opening of Russian/Soviet archives we seem to be gradually getting more flesh put on the bones of the Red Army Soldier's story. and it's a story that's often been unfairly told, or even dismissed, in the West.
    The very best of luck to you in finding out more, hopefully you'll share any results, and maybe the forum can help out in return.

    Cheers,
    ~Adam.
     
  6. MoneyGuy

    MoneyGuy Member

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    Wonderful story. I, too, would love to read more. It's heros like this who brought the Nazis to their knees. I think there are a million such stories and it's a shame that we can't know them all.
     
  7. yswo

    yswo Member

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    Thanks especially to moneyguy, I am collecting details, my father says he has much more details and can show me maps even of where my grandfather fought. I just discovered this forum last week but am really loving it. In my personal life no one else knows nearly as much about WWII as the people here, so it is nice to see some ppl are interested. I will be providing full details soon, I am as eager to hear them from my father as you are from me.

    Regards,

    Jacob
     
  8. Spitfire_XIV

    Spitfire_XIV Member

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    Hello there yswo and welcome to the forum :)

    I would love to see more about your grandfather's time in the Red Army, especially his part in the Battle of Berlin in 1945.
     
  9. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    Hi Jacob, I will gladly read about this story. It sounds quite fascinating.
     
  10. yswo

    yswo Member

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    Okay I have some updates, I got a few things wrong. Sorry about the delay. I spoke with my father and here is the story combined with what I remember my grandfather telling me as a child. My grandfather was born in Lithuania although the borders kept changing. I think however, at the time it was the part of Poland the was demarcated to the Soviets in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. After the soviets came in my grandfather who was 23 at the time was drafted into the Russian army. Now my father told me that Stalin (after the Barbarossa) sent all the working age poles to Siberia but I am not sure if that is historically true. I think my grandfather was sent to Siberia before the German invasion (along with many other poles). He was in a Siberian work camp near some place called Omsk. People were dropping like flies and death rates were close to 90%. He became friends with someone whose father was an officer in the Red Army and was able to get in some food. My grandfather survived because this person shared the food with him.

    His task in Siberia was to cut down massive trees with a small axe. One day he told the guards he and another inmate would go a bit ahead to chop down a certain tree. They made a run for it. The guards did not look for them because they assumed that anyone who escaped would die in the foot of snow.

    My grandfather found traintracks and followed it to the closest station. He took a train to a recruiting office where he could re-join the army (they had no idea he was coming from Siberia) I believe the year was 1943. At first his unit was actually put in charge of helping to build the trans-siberian railroad (another fact my father told me which I found bizzare).

    Anyway at a certain point he started to do more combat stuff. He had the best shot, and told me that they gave the soldiers three bullets a day to practice with and he was the only one who would always hit the target three times. He was also the only one in the unit who could speak German so later in the war he was used as a translator.

    I am not sure the exact details, my father says he will show me a map but he went up the ranks and became a Sergeant and commanded a few dozen troops. He fought in the battle of berlin (I really am trying to get more details on this one) and on May 5th 1945 got a grenade wound to the ear. I guess there was still some fighting in Berlin even after May 2nd, which would not be surprising since there were still other pockets of resistance that had not surrendered until later. He was in a hospital in Berlin for two months from the wound. After the war the Soviets wanted him to stay in the army and get promoted to a higher rank. He had no interest in fighting after the Nazis were defeated so he escaped from the Hospital to a DP camp in Germany (his entire village of 250 Jews were shot to death by the Einsatzgruppen) and his property was taken by some locals. That is all the story I have for now I will try to get more details especially about Battle of Berlin. I am not sure if he was in Konev or Khukov's unit.
     
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  11. rkline56

    rkline56 USS Oklahoma City CG5

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    yswo Great story and I'll keep an eye out for more. Thank you.
     
  12. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Ace

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    Man....that reads like a summary of a book! It would be fascinating to read the day-to-day details, something more in-depth...did he leave behind a diary or any notes/letters/anything from his time in the Red Army? Seriously....this would make a good book/HBO miniseries/movie! :S! to your grandparents for all they went through.
     
  13. Victor Gomez

    Victor Gomez Ace

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    Thanks for what you have given us, we don't hear too many stories from this part of the world, so it is most interesting. As an oil company engineer my brother-in-law has traveled to Siberia several times in regard to oil company projects...requires permits to enter every town there and places to stay can vary in accomodations. Eventually his company had layers booted out so he came back to Houston area for a while then retired. Some who got to stay are still working in the oil business but more under Russian controlled partnerships.
     
  14. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    This would be worth making into a limited run book. If you had more details it could possibly be done.
     
  15. yswo

    yswo Member

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    Thank you all for the positive comments. Despite my really limited time it has encouraged me to find out more. I think my grandfather did a documentary for the simon wiesenthal center or some other organization. I am going to see if he did, and if so I can get the video. I am sure if he did one (which I am pretty sure of) I will watch it because I am sure it has more details. I will keep you guys posted.
     
  16. Gadzhi

    Gadzhi New Member

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    yswo, Great story, indeed!

    I also have a story about my relative, who took part in WW2 as a Red Army soldier. I wrote an article in my blog about him: http://gadzhi-mak.livejournal.com/2005.html.

    There you can find infromation about his rewards, and also detailed infromation about the feats for which he got the rewards.
     
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  17. swimminginaqua

    swimminginaqua New Member

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    Recently I was talking to a friend (she immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine as a child) who told me her grandfather, who was Jewish, was in the Red Army and fought in the battle of Berlin. She showed me a picture of him in uniform..very handsome. He was taken prisoner but eventually returned to Ukraine and raised a family. Another one of her grandfather's, an intellectual, spoke out against the Soviets and was sent to Siberia where he also raised a family. It's amazing what you learn when you tell people you are interested in WWII history.
     

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