The third close call occurred the next day. I stayed in the trailer until dark when I set out to find another hideaway. I learned then that I was close to or in the front lines. Every few minutes I had to drop to the ground as the Germans kept sending up flares. After a long time of this ordeal I came upon a barn, climbed up to the attic and spent what was left of the night there. The next morning I heard two German soldiers approaching. One of them remarked that it would be a good idea to store hay in the attic. Needless to say this didn't inspire any hope of attaining ripe old age, but then a third miracle happened. They didn't come. That night, as soon as it got dark, I left for greener pastures. I moved into a chicken coup which became my abode for a couple of days. As this lodging was very uncomfortable, I moved in to an underground bunker which was more comfortable but also a dangerous place to be. However, I had no other choice.

A few days later, about two weeks after my escape, the Russians launched an artillery barrage of such intensity that the earth literally shook. This lasted for two solid hours. While this was going on I made a stupid move. For some inexplicable reason, I stuck my head out and couldn't believe what my eyes saw. German soldiers were on the run for their lives. Realizing that deliverance was imminent made my heart beat faster. This was a supreme moment that will always be etched in my mind. I have no words to describe the joy of that moment. After the barrage ended, there was a spell of utter silence for about half an hour when suddenly I began hearing voices speaking Russian. I flew out of the bunker, waved my arms and tried to shout greetings in Russian. What came out of my mouth, however, were inarticulate squeaks due to the fact that I hadn't used my vocal chords for two weeks. They looked at me thinking that I had gone mad, which was probably true. I was delirious from ineffable joy.

They promptly harnessed me into service as a contribution to the cause, loading a part of a heavy machine gun which I had to carry for the rest of the day and all night. At dawn the advance halted, they took pity on me and gave me a piece of bread. At the break of day I found myself in a foxhole with a soldier. He was a good natured middle-aged peasant. After I told him my hard luck story , he proceeded to comfort me. He said that in the Soviet Union there is absolute equality enjoyed by every ethnic minority and that there are high ranking officers in the red army who are Jewish. Then he pointed to a sergeant who was approaching us and said, "You see this sergeant? He is Jewish." As I was looking forward to shake hands with the sergeant, he came over, bent down, hit me over the head, turned around and walked
away while the soldier scolded him for hitting me. I don't know what this sergeant was trying to prove. Perhaps he was ashamed of his Jewish identity.

Later that morning I was allowed to walk to the command post. On my way I was stopped every few minutes and questioned by sentries. En route I came upon a group of officers where I was questioned by a young lieutenant who spoke Ukrainian. When he found out I was Jewish, he started spouting anti- Jewish invective. When he noticed my cheap watch I had managed to conceal from the Hungarians and the Germans, he expressed an acquisitive interest in it. When I indicated reluctance to part with it, he whipped out his pistol and threatened to shoot me. At the time I was eating bread another officer had given me so I said, wait until after I have finished eating and then you can shoot me. I thought that was a funny line. That he didn't appreciate my sense of humor became apparent when his fist came into contact with my face. Being thus convinced that he was serious, I handed him the watch and started walking to the

Boris, 2nd row 1st on the left,  in the Russian army

command post. Again I was detained and questioned every few minutes. After a while this became tiresome so I managed to persuade a soldier to escort me. Because of the incident with the lieutenant I decided not to reveal my Jewish identity and instead say that I am from Czechoslovakia. This proved to be helpful in being accepted as the Russians had a high regard for the Czechs. When I reported to the command post, I was subjected to several hours of intensive interrogation. They kept accusing me of spying and I of course kept denying it. At the end when they became convinced that I was no spy, I was asked what I intended to do. I said I was interested in joining the Czechoslovakian brigade and fighting the nazis. I was told that because of the fluidity of the situation and the distance to the brigade, to provide transportation for one person was not feasible. I was advised that I could do my fighting in their ranks, which was O.K. with me. I was left inactive for a week during which time I enjoyed decent food and so regained the weight lost while I was hiding. Subsequently, I was renamed Boris and after I showed them that I knew how to handle a rifle, I was given a gun, a uniform and assigned to a squad for on the job training at the art of war.


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Boris Segelstein