By Galina Stasjuk (Chizhakovskaja)

translated by Diana Mann (703) 406 4780

 

                                             FRIENDS & TIME

 

It was winter of 1942. Even the most distant parts of our planet were vibrating from the bomb explosions and men’s grief. Nazi’s army – excellently equipped, inspired by easy victories was marching across Europe, leaving blood, tears and destruction behind.

The world was entangled in the horror of  World War II, the Great Patriotic War for my country – the USSR.

It was the aspiration of millions of men from different countries which brought back the peace.

I have no intention to describe the history of that time.  I want to reveal the true story about its heroes – about American marines, who risked their lives to help people of my country and about our friendship.

Here is the story.

During the war my family lived in a little town on the White Sea called Molotovsk. One of those cold winter days, on my way back home from school I stopped near my house to enjoy a long and smooth ice slide. My bag with books was abandoned in the pile of snow and I was sliding back and forth balancing with my hands. The street looked deserted and the sudden noise at the end of it had attracted my attention at once. There was a group of foreign marines, they were laughing and talking to each other. As they approached the slide they couldn’t avoid its temptation and tried to follow my example. Unfortunately, their boots were not designed for the "ice skating" as well as mine – they simply didn’t slide. So, they started to jump instead, trying to warm themselves.  Cold wind with prickly snow blushed their young, opened, handsome faces. There were four of them. I was looking at them with admiration – they were our allies – U.S. marines.  They were smiling and trying to tell me something, but I understood only a little. Our conversation was about to come to the dead end when one of the guys wrote his name and age with a cigarette on the snow pointing to him self.  In  turn I wrote: “Galina, 15”. That is how they were all  formally introduced” to me – Dick, Frank, Michael and Slam.

It was obvious to me that their feet were freezing. They were wearing cloth boots on and they still had to make their way to the port for about 2 miles.  The decision was made at once – I invited them to my home.  I wasn’t thinking what my parents would say about it. People were cold and the rest was  irrelevant.

For me, as  a kid, that was just a normal response to the situation. But for my parents, that was a brave act.

My father was a military man. Presence of foreign marines in our house, once discovered, could have resulted  in bad consequences.  Neither word “ally”, nor the fact that those guys were facing death for the sake of our lives was considered. The government policy ordered everyone to stay away from any foreigner. To express one’s own will and mind meant to become out of control. That was absolutely unacceptable for Stalin’s regime. But still, most of the people lived in accordance with their conscience, no matter what was happening. 

 

 

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So, my new friends understood my gesture and we ran all together into my house. Shaking off the snow and laughing we bashed inside.  My stepmother Olga was stunned for a moment. But when I briefly explained to her why we have guests she smiled and invited them to the table. I rushed to make some boiling water for tea. Olga put teacups and cranberry jam on the table. The hospitable surrounding, jokes and hot tea made those brave soldiers fit perfectly into the cozy house atmosphere. Dick even started to dance from the excitement. He just turned 17…

We understood each other surprisingly well. We used a little dictionary – I can’t remember now to whom it belonged. Interrupting each other we were translating endless questions and answers. Such a fun bursting company had greeted my completely unaware father.

He came to have some  rest  after inspecting the bay for the whole night. Nazi started to bomb Arhangelsk and Molotovsk and there was a suspicion that they had a base somewhere on our territory along the White Sea coast.

My father was surprised with such unexpected gathering but wasn’t upset at all, on the contrary. He spoke some English and that made our time together even more interesting. From that day on our American friends would stop by our house every time they were going to the "Inter" Club or back to the port. My stepmother always tried to prepare something tasty for the guys (as far as it was possible for that time). They often brought us delicious things too – biscuits, white bread, canned meat. Most of the time it was Slam who “transported” presents from the ship to our house. He was very tall and that provided excellent “hiding” space. He placed biscuits wrapped in a new towel around his waste. Thick winter coat, which was completing the attire, made it absolutely impossible to raise any suspicion of the guards.

We all became friends. Dick and I even had romantic feelings for each other. He gave me the record album with opera “Sadko” by Rimsky-Korsakov, performed by Russian singers. Somebody from the guys brought us a very beautiful yellow tablecloth made from silk with red embroidered lion on it.

Once, my father came home with a pair of valenki (felt boots). He told them, that the freezing winter would still last for a while. The first lucky guy was Dick – valenki fitted him perfectly. But there was one more problem that we had to deal with. Nothing could be taken from our house to the ship because that could attract the military patrol's attention. After an unpleasant incident the vigilant eye of the authorities had started to watch over our friendship. One evening, when we sat all together, my father had an unexpected visitor. That was the "officer-in-charge-of-political-subjects"  from his headquarters. When he saw foreign marines he became so furious that was unable to utter a word. Olga pretended she didn’t understand his reaction and invited him to share a cup of tea with everybody. He just slammed the door instead.

So, that meant that we had to hand valenki imperceptibly somewhere on the street. The conspiracy plan was elaborated at once. I was walking towards the end of the town with the camouflaged valenki. In the certain place I would hand the package to the new valenki owner and  proceed casually, as if nothing happened. After a while, everyone was taken care of except for  Slam.  He had a very big foot size corresponding to his height and that

 

 

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made it difficult to find the appropriate pair for him. But finally Slam got his valenki and  I was happy that my new friends were not going to freeze.

Very often I think about this courageous men. They  helped people of my country in the most critical moment of that war. Our military production  was still weak and the enemy was coming closer and closer to Moscow. We needed desperately ammunition, food, clothing, medical aid. And all this was coming to us  on the ally’s ships which had been attacked by Nazi’s navy and Air Forces on their way through rough cold waters of  the northern sea way.  Red Cross headed by Eleonora Roosevelt provided substantial part of this cargo. Simple Americans were bringing whatever they can to contribute in to this great help organized by their government. 

If my friends – now proud grandfathers and veterans, will read this story I will be very happy to wish them all the best. I want them to know, that what they had done is written in the History of Great man’s spirit. That feat will be forever in the heart of our nation as they will be always in my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 9, 2002

 

 

To whom it may concern:

 

"Friends and Time" is a true story written by my grandmother. She feels that if this story will reach those young men that she met or even anybody who participated in the "Lend-lease" campaign  or their children, it would be great for them to know that they are remembered in Russia and in all of the former Soviet Union by all generations.

She is visiting me and my family in Sterling, VA (703) 406 4780 till August 22, 2002.  We will be very grateful to hear from you about the story before she leaves, if possible.

 

Thank you for your time!

 

Diana Mann

 

June 15, 2005

 

The current way to make contact is to either call Diana Mann at (703) 406-4780 or email her at email address DZEREBOVA@HOTMAIL.COM.

 

I think when she refers to Marines she means either Merchant Marine or US Navy Armed Guard sailors (all are veterans).

 

Tom Bowerman