A Hungarian Memoir, P.O.W. Part 11

Chapter 3 of “The Potato Story.”

In the shop was a few double bunk beds.  I crawled under one of them.  A moment later I heard the guards foot steps and voices.  Since I spoke and understood a bit of Russian, I knew what they were talking about.  The Russian guard said, “I will stay by the door and you go inside and check the shops.”   All the other shop doors were locked, except the one I was hiding in; probably because there wasn’t anything valuable, so there was no reason to lock the door at night.  The prisoner guard came into the corridor and tried to open the shop doors.  when he came to the basket weavers shop the door was open.  He listened for a while and after started to look for a switch.  I was laying under the bunk bed sweating in the cold and breathless.  He found the electrical switch; my eyes were closed but I heard him trying to turn the light on. The sound of the click again and again.  Either the switch was no good or the bulb was out.  I opened my eyes slowly and saw his shadow by the door; then he walked out.  The two guards started talking again, the Russian guard said, “he is in there somewhere.”  The prisoner guard said “he is not in the shops, maybe he lives in the upstairs room and that is why I can’t find him.”

Finally the Russian guard said, “I have to go back to the guard-house, you stay here, he has to come out.”  “No, I don’t,” I was thinking.” as far as I was concerned everything was all over and all I would just have to do is stick it out until the guard outside the entrance left.

From the run and all the excitement my body perspired and from my body heat, the frozen potatoes started to melt in my long johns and around my chest under my shirt.  Not long after I cooled down and began shaking.  When I had separated the frozen potatoes, my fingertips got frostbite.  The increasing pain was becoming almost unbearable.  I couldn’t keep hiding for much longer and would have to give myself up if the guard didn’t leave soon.  I thought about crawling out and walking upstairs to the occupied room, but I was sure they would take all my potatoes away; but I would save myself from punishment.  That was very severe, at least three to six months in a special camp, not to mention the physical hardship.  My body shook so violently from the cold, I was ready to give up.

Then I heard movement, the Russian guard came back.  This time I didn’t understand what he asked or told the prisoner guard, the only thing I knew was from their footsteps as they both left.  Fast as I could I hurried out from under the bunk bed, my body still shaking badly I attempted to make it back to my barrack room.

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