A Hungarian Memoir – The Front
Like a fine mist, the cold rain came down upon us in the trenches. It was took dark to see anything but it was too wet and cold to sleep. There was nothing else to do but think, think about anything to make the time go by faster. Ahead of us was the west cornfield and somewhere in that was the Russian front line. They could have been fifty to one hundred yards from us but we didn’t really care about the distance. We knew as long as we stayed quiet they would do the same. From time to time they shot a mortar shell over our heads to make sure no one was between the lines. We kept our heads down in the trenches, not so much because of the mortars but because of the rain.
I was at the front for two weeks and at the front line for only three days. Everyday the routine was rather standard. The Russian heavy artillery was the first to pound us, after the artillery stopped the tanks and the foot soldiers started to attack. Without any resistance we started to pull back. Around two or three in the afternoon the Russian attack stopped and so did we. At this point we all started looking for a ditch or trench to settle down in for the night. Somehow I figured out this whole thing was very senseless. We had only handguns and they were no match for the Russian T-34 tanks. It seemed more logical to run like a coward then to become a dead hero under those circumstances.
That night in the rain I wanted to put an end to all my misery short of dying. There was a couple of possibilities to consider. The first was desertion, if I deserted and the military police caught me I would be shot on the spot. This was more of a definite then a possibility. I could sneak across the Russian line and go to my hometown but it was two hundred and fifty-six km’s away and already under Russian occupation. If I did do it I would need civilian clothing which I didn’t have. There was no towns nearby only deserted farmhouses. Finally I thought about becoming a prisoner of war. This was a very scary thought. Everyday we heard stories about how many prisoners were shot and killed. I had to find a solution. I looked up in the rainy dark sky and said, “you helped me so many times in my life, I am too young to die and for what?”
The following morning the Russian troops and their tanks started to advance towards us from the front and the flank. We were all in a state of chaos, there was nowhere to go. If we proceeded forward we would die and if we retreated backwards we would also die. The Russians had surrounded us from all angles. Our only chance was to surrender. We slowly started coming out of our trenches with our rifles over our heads.
After our unconditional surrender our guns were collected and we were ordered to the side of a nearby road to wait for the Russian unit commander. I saw him riding towards us on his horse and examining everyone on the way like a herd of cattle. Suddenly he stopped in front of me and with a strange yet sad look upon his face said, “so young, such a shame,” in Russian. Did he know something we didn’t, were we going to die. Only time could tell as we started to march towards our fate.
(The next chapter “The Journey to Russia,” is the time frame leading up to one of my earlier posts called “The Train.”