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Friday, 27 March 2009


By Linda Carmi

He was a lieutenant in the Red Army at age twenty-two, fighting for his life and the lives of his people, in the frozen forests of Finland, when he met with a bayonet that missed his manhood by only inches. Heavy winter clothing and the cold prevented him from knowing the severity of the wound until later.

Bitter cold and lack of food or medicine made the prospect of healing questionable at best. His men transported him to a hospital in Leningrad where he remained for the next three months.

Conditions in the hospital were far from ideal, but a great deal better than on the battlefield in the frigid weather. With practically no food, people were known to peel wallpaper from the walls and boil it to remove the flour paste to make a soup that was sometimes the only meal of the day. It was here that he met his sweet Zoya.

A beautiful blonde with green eyes that jumped immediately into his heart, she was a nurse in the battered, makeshift hospital. She clearly fancied this handsome young Russian soldier and took extra care to bring extra food when she could. He had an eye for a pretty girl and his charm was undeniable even that he was sick.

Their love bloomed quickly in those desperate times and they were soon having late night trysts in his bed while other soldiers presumably slept nearby. They both knew that to see the next day was uncertain and that only served to fuel their passion for one another.

He told Zoya stories of his family in Poland. He missed them so much and was looking forward to returning to them after the war would end, whenever that might be. He had no way of knowing then that they had likely perished. Indeed he learned much later that had been the case. He had not seen them since he was taken into the Russian army in early 1941 and it was already winter of 1942.

Zoya eagerly listened to his stories of a good life, the kind of life that she wanted to have with him as her husband - after the war would end. She was alone in the world, having lost her family during the early months of the war. She gave him a photograph of herself and signed the back, "To my husband, Love, Zoya". They made beautiful plans for their future together.

He knew he would have to return to the war when he was well again. Their plan was that he would return to find her and take her to Poland where they would start a new life together as husband and wife. For the next several months their passion brightened the dingy life inside the hospital.

Zoya tended to him during the days along with her duties to other soldiers. At night she came to him and they clung together in his bed for precious moments that would remain in his memory for years to come.

Suddenly, in the middle of night, his world was changed forever, as would happen many times again in the coming years of the war. He was awakened not by Zoya's soft touch, but by an officer telling him that it was time for him to leave the hospital. That was it, sudden and with no choice in the matter. No time to gather his things or find Zoya for a farewell kiss. He and some of the other soldiers were being taken in the dark of night to join others in crossing the frozen waters of Lake Ladoga to join a new front.

He was given time to dress and then he and his comrades were quickly guided away through the inky darkness. It happened so quickly, with no time to find Zoya or even to leave a note. That is the way it happened in war. Whoosh. A moment here, then gone in a heartbeat. That was the way of war.

He was heartsick, of course, but in coming days the pain of his lost love was dulled by keeping his mind on how to stay alive. He wanted Zoya to know that he would come back for her; he loved her and wanted to have the life they had planned together. Did she know what had happened? Did she know that he had been taken away? Did she think that he left her willingly? Did she try to get word to him, somehow? He never knew. He never saw Zoya again.

The randomness of war interrupted their plans for life together. He went on fighting the war throughout Europe and then to Palestine. He escaped death many times in some circumstances that would rival any Hollywood script writer.

He often wondered what happened to Zoya. Did she survive? Did she marry and have children, as he later did? Was their love born of the desperate times of war. Or was it a true love? That would have lasted? He asked himself this question many times during the sixty-plus years since. What happened to his beautiful Zoya, the green eyed Russian girl who was to be his wife?

This is one of many stories my husband has shared with me of his life during WWII. He mentions Zoya now and then, still wondering what happened to her.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The supply of stories is running low, so if you've had one on your mind to write, now is the time. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post



I loved this story. It highlights the tragedy of war and the separations that are the result of war...

If you have used real names,wouldn't it be incredible if you heard from someone who was on the Zoya side of the story and had always wondered what happened to the handsome young Red Army Lieutenant?

Wow! What a story! This is the basis for an oscar-winning movie.

I love this story it has the makings of great classic - love that shared while young unfulfilled - yet promised. really great story.

Thank you for the comments. The name is real, as is the story. Many more to go with it....

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