(Normally I post the memoirs on Mondays and Thursdays, but this week is a little different. Before continuing with “Cultural Works” I’d like to write a little update on a possible resource. When I began writing the P.O.W. part of the posts, I made references to a labor camp by the name of “Pikolov” which is in my father’s writings. As I stated before I believe; his handwriting was not easy to transcribe and understandably; English was not his first language. For many years I have tried to narrow down the name of the camp based on the description, its relative site, landmarks and time frame; once again based on the memoir. This past week I took another crack at deciphering it. Looking back at my old research notes, I did new internet searches using the above mentioned criteria; combined with the fact that new information on these sensitive topics becomes more available as time passes. The most probable candidate is Pikalevo, for the following reasons. Mention of a cement factory, its place between the Finish Border and Leningrad, mention of peat/coal mine, and near Lake Ladoga in Russia. I am still reviewing recent maps for translation. Otherwise there was/is a cement factory in Pikalevo, within a very short distance of the Boksitogorsk Mines, in the District of Tikhvinskii which is also between the Finish border and Leningrad/ St. Petersburg, and near Lake Ladoga. Furthermore, there are mentions of it being referred to a labor camp, used during that time fame in some literature and scientific journals. All this combined with closeness of spelling is how I came to this conclusion; granted I am not 100% certain. Kati~)
I borrowed one of the hand-saws from another carpenter carefully walked back down to the “fish market.” There I quickly sawed the large fish into small portions and down they went in my long johns. I knew from experience at the end of the day everyone that worked inside the building would be searched. I planned to outsmart them. With the cut up fish in my long johns I went outside to the outhouse and there I unloaded my loot to another carpenter that was safe from the search, because he worked outside. The remaining time in the afternoon I made a some more trips. Finally the day was over and we were called to quit working and line up outside the warehouse for the search. It went exactly how I figured it would. Luckily, no one noticed I smelled of fish because we all smelled bad at the end of the day.
In our barracks room that evening we all had fish! We ate raw, salted fish, what a nice feast it was for us. The bad side of this, it made us so thirsty we could hardly sleep that night. Otherwise my nourished body felt good, I survived another day where dying from hunger was a very common way to die. Nobody ever complained from the warehouse about the missing fishes. Maybe because there was so many fishes in the barrel. No one would pay attention to a few “swimming” away.
No, I was wrong, the next time I went to the same warehouse they put up a door at the entrance to the basement. I knew then the reason for it. Anyway that door was a disappointment to me, I felt sorrow but I was always a determined man. I never gave up hope, that was one of my survival tactics. I knew sooner or later I would find something else and yet another Sunday paid off again.
I worked inside the building with my same old friend. I liked him and used to look up to him like he was my father. He liked me too, very much. That day we worked in a small room upstairs when something caught my attention. The guard was siting casually on the other side of the door reading a newspaper and smoking one cigarette after another. Directly behind me in the corner was a burlap sack. Something was filling it up halfway. I stared at the sack for a while and then decided I wanted to take a closer look; but how? The guard just a few feet away and we were working on the entrance door. With the opening to the inside of the room an idea came to mind. I motioned to my friend to take the door off the hinges. “Why?” he asked me. I told him “never mind why, just get the door off.” He knew right away I was up to something. We removed the door from the hinges and then I told him, I wanted him to plane the edge, while I held it from the other side. I slowly started to turn the door until I blocked myself in the room and from the guard’s view. At this point, holding the door with one hand I reached for the burlap sack with the other and peaked inside.
To my utter amazement it contained biscuit flour. In a state of excitement I anxiously started to scoop up the flour and shovel it in my pockets. I didn’t want to push my luck, so I didn’t take more than a pound from the bag. When Ferenc noticed what I was doing he started shaking his head side to side motioning for me not to do it. He looked more nervous than I felt. I replied by motioning to him to quickly put the door back on the hinges. When he asked me what I got I told him “you won’t believe it, biscuit flour.” I could see on his face hesitance of belief…….
(I will stop here for now….though there is one last part to this Cultural Works Story. Kati~)